A senior Iranian health official has declared a coronavirus red alert covering the entire country as daily deaths and cases increase at an alarming rate, Iranian state TV reported on Friday.
Iran, one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has been divided up into white, orange/yellow and red regions based on the number of infections and deaths.
The death toll rose by 144 to 23,952 on Friday, while the total number of identified cases spiked by 3,049 to 416,198, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on television.
"The colour classification doesn't make sense anymore. We no longer have orange and yellow. The entire country is red," deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi said on television.
"If the current course continues, the death toll will reach 45,000," he added, without giving a time frame.
In the northwestern city of Tabriz, for instance, the number of hospitalised patients had jumped from under 40 a day to 160, and in the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Qom it had increased from 10 a day to 160, Harirchi said, again without providing a time period for the increases.
He said only a 95% use of masks and a 50% fall in gatherings could reduce the death toll.