TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran on Tuesday reported its highest single-day toll of new coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic with more than 5,000 new infections, as the country struggles to cope with a surge in transmission.
“People, be aware, I, as the health minister, cannot fix this epidemic and the situation alone," he said.
Iran, which emerged early on as an epicenter of the virus, has seen its worst wave of deaths from the illness in recent weeks. Monday’s death toll shattered its previous single-day record, prompting state news outlets to declare it a “black day.”
Hospitals in the hard-hit capital of Tehran are overflowing. Last week, health officials announced that the city had run out of intensive care beds for virus patients.
He said the organization would deploy over 7,600 more nurses to compensate for dire staff shortages across the country's hospitals. Such official tolls are widely considered to understate the true dimensions of the outbreak among medical staff and nationwide.
The government has resisted a total lockdown because it does not want to further weaken an economy already devastated by unprecedented U.S. sanctions. The Trump administration re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran after withdrawing in 2018 from Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers.
With the death toll skyrocketing, authorities are now starting to impose more restrictions. The government closed museums, libraries, beauty salons, schools and universities in Tehran earlier this month, and imposed a mask mandate outdoors.
Police have deployed to fine those caught without a mask, but enforcement remains a challenge in the sprawling city of 10 million. Months into the pandemic, fatigue and frustration have set in.
Namaki, the health minister, criticized authorities Tuesday for failing to implement new anti-virus measures, promoted on state-run media but frequently forgotten on Tehran's bustling streets.
“We asked for fines to be collected from anyone who doesn't wear a mask, but go and find out how many people were fined," he said. “We said close roads, and yet how many did they close?"