The new coronavirus has killed 135 more people in Iran, officials said – a 13% spike that raises the death toll to 988 amid 16,169 infections.
Iranian health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour released the figure during a televised news conference.
The death toll’s continued sharp increase is causing concern among experts that the outbreak in the Islamic Republic is far from being contained.
Meanwhile, Friday will mark the Persian New Year, Nowruz, raising fears of people travelling and spreading the virus further.
It has also emerged that Iran has released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave in a bid to curb the spread of the illness.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said that those released include half of all “security-related” prisoners, without elaborating.
Western nations have called on Iran to release dual nationals and others held allegedly as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Among those released is Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, the son of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, who was in jail for nearly two months.