As daily deaths from coronavirus cases soar at an alarming rate, the entirety of Iran is under "red alert," Iranian state-run TV cited Deputy Minister of Health Iraj Harirchi as saying on Friday.
"We do not have green, yellow, and orange colors anymore; we consider the entire country under red alert," Harirchi said.
Iran, one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit hardest by the pandemic, had previously been divided up into white, orange/yellow, and red regions based on the number of infections and deaths.
Referring to the "new waves of coronavirus," Harirchi added, "We are facing numerous waves. We are in a turbulent sea. We are a country that, for the past months, has been experiencing a daily death toll of more than one thousand."
Haririchi went on to explain that, if Iran does not see a reduction in traffic and physical contact as well as an increase in the use of masks, the total number of victims of the coronavirus in the country will reach 45,000, which means more than 200 deaths per day.
Comparatively, if mask use goes up to 95% and the traffic volume is halved, the number of deaths will be reduced.
Instead of "unwarranted demanding and pursuing baseless allegations" about drugs and vaccines, Harirchi said that "Iranians should spend their time finding ways to encourage themselves, their families and the community to respect the maximum anti-coronavirus guidelines."
According to Harirchi, the "coronavirus has no ideology," and any social contact without respecting the guidelines can be dangerous.
The issuance of Muharram mourning permits, as well as school openings, have triggered a wave of concerns about the spread of the deadly virus.
Haririchi explained that the number of students in the country is 14.5 million, and the teachers are 1.2 million. "Taking the number of the service staff, drivers and parents into account, we are dealing with about one-fifth of Iran's population," Harirchi said, adding, "Therefore, if the hygiene protocols disregarded, students can cause significant virus transmission in the community."
Haririchi also said that the number of cases and hospitalizations has increased in most provinces of the country.
"This week, the number of cities under red status has increased from 88 to 109 cities, and the cities with alert status have increased from 90 to 108 cities," Haririchi announced.
According to the country's official statistics, more than 413,000 people have been tested positive for coronavirus in Iran so far, and 23,808 have died of the virus.
However, many analysts believe that the real figure is much higher than what Iranian officials claim.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Sima Sadat Lari, also reported on Thursday that 176 additional Iranians died of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, while 2815 more tested positive.
Out of 2815 new cases, 1628 had been hospitalized across the country.