Iran Risks Second Coronavirus Wave If People Ignore Restrictions – Minister

FILE PHOTO: Iranians wear protective face masks against the risk of coronavirus contagion as they ride in the metro, in Tehran, Iran, May 20, 2020. REUTERS./

DUBAI, June 1 (Reuters) Iran could face a second, stronger wave of novel coronavirus infections if people ignore guidance and social distancing rules, health minister Saeed Namaki said on Monday.

The Islamic Republic, one of the worst-hit countries in the region, started easing its lockdown in April after a drop in deaths.

But May saw an uptick in the rate of reported infections compared with mid to late April – an acceleration the government put down to increased testing.

“The outbreak is not over yet and at any moment it may come back stronger than before,” Saeed Namaki said in a news conference broadcast on state TV.

“If our people fail to respect the health protocols … we must prepare ourselves for the worst situation.”

Iran has reported a total of 154,445 infections as of Monday, an increase of 2,979 from the previous day.

It also reported 81 new deaths, taking the toll to 7,878.

Government employees went back to work and mosques resumed daily prayers on Saturday as part of the relaxation of the lockdown.

But authorities had to reimpose restrictions in the southern provinces of Khuzestan and Sistan Baluchestan in mid-May after an uptick of cases there.

“There is still a long way ahead of us in our fight against this virus … All the health protocols should be respected,” Namaki said.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)