July 21, 2020 / 10:08 AM / 16 days ago

Iran hits record 229 deaths from coronavirus in past 24 hours - health ministry

A mother takes care of Amirali, a 7-year-old suspected to have the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Mofid children's hospital, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tehran, Iran, July 8, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency) Abdollah Heidari via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY

(Reuters) - Iran has seen a record 229 deaths in the past 24 hours from its outbreak of the novel coronavirus, health ministry figures showed on Tuesday.

Iran, the Middle East country hardest hit by the pandemic, began relaxing its lockdown in mid-April, at least partly to boost an economy battered by U.S. sanctions.

The Islamic Republic has recorded a total of 14,634 deaths from the coronavirus, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV, adding that the country has seen 278,827 infections and 242,351 recoveries.

The previous record of deaths from the new coronavirus in a 24 hour period was on July 9, when health ministry figures showed 221 people had died.

Hospitals in Iran face acute shortages of medical personnel and beds as the country tackles a powerful second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior official with Tehran’s anti-coronavirus task force, Reza Jalili-Khoshnood, said last week.

His comments contrasted with President Hassan Rouhani’s regular assurances that Iran has sufficient supplies of medical personnel and facilities.

Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest authority in the country, are now regularly shown on state media wearing a mask, a means of encouraging ordinary Iranians to also use masks more frequently.

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Jan Harvey

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