Iran hit a new coronavirus infection record on Thursday for the third straight day, reporting 22,586 new cases as the country grapples with a severe spike.
The new case count pushes Iran's total during the pandemic over 2 million, including 63,884 deaths after health authorities reported 185 new daily fatalities due to COVID-19. The single-day infection toll exceeded the previous record set Wednesday by over 1,600.
Iran is in the midst of a major surge after millions defied government guidance to gather and travel during Nowruz, the country's biggest holiday. The health minister has ordered non-essential shops in the capital and other major cities closed.
Tehran’s Grand Bazaar and several other businesses have been closed for two weeks, Iranian state media said.
Some reports suggested that most of Iran's 31 provinces have moved from the lower risk orange level to coronavirus red alert.
The nation's vaccine rollout, meanwhile, has gotten off to a slow start.
Sima Sadat Lari, Health Ministry spokeswoman, on Thursday urged an increasingly wary public to avoid big gatherings, calling it a “moral and social responsibility.”
“The very dangerous situation of the disease in recent days has led to us losing a number of compatriots,” she said. “Yet many of us still cannot say ‘no’ to invitations to parties, weddings and funerals."