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Iran's coronavirus death toll exceeds 24,000 - health ministry

(Reuters) - Around half of all coronavirus patients being treated in Iran’s intensive care units are dying, a government health specialist said on Saturday. The death toll among those on ventilators is 90%.

FILE PHOTO: People leave as others wait at Mofid Children's hospital, where children suspected of being infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are treated, in Tehran, Iran, July 8, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency) Abdollah Heidari via REUTERS

“In all, 10% to 12% of hospitalised patients are losing their lives,” Masoud Mardani, a specialist of infectious diseases and a member of the government coronavirus task force, told the semi-official ISNA news agency.

He was speaking on Saturday as the health ministry said the country’s coronavirus death toll had risen by 166 to 24,118.

Payam Tabarsi, head of infectious diseases at Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari Hospital, said the number of emergency room patients being admitted at his facility had jumped over the past week from 68 a day to 200. “People are queuing to be admitted,” he was cited as saying by ISNA.

If the trend continues, deaths from coronavirus could reach 600 a day within weeks, he said.

Iran’s total number of confirmed cases in the last 24 hours spiked by 2,845 to 419,043, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state TV.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that a 20% decline in public adherence to health protocols had contributed to the spike in infections.

“Today, the health ministry gave a worrying report. The public’s observance, which was 82% in earlier weeks, has fallen to 62%,” Rouhani said in remarks broadcast live on state television.

He said the ministry report showed a recurrence of infection among former patients.

Tabarsi called on authorities to limit school attendance to online classes, saying that in the last few days several students and teachers had been infected.

Schools re-opened on Sept. 5 for 15 million students after a seven-month closure despite concerns over increased spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Last month, over one million students sat for a four-day nationwide university entrance exam despite calls to postpone them. Rouhani said no student had tested positive for the virus following the exams.

Editing by David Clarke and Mike Harrison