DUBAI, Oct 8 (Reuters) – Tehran ambulances carrying COVID-19 patients go from hospital to hospital in search of available beds, a physician said on Thursday as the country recorded a daily high of 4,392 new cases.

Authorities have been warning for days of severe shortages of hospital beds during a third wave of infections that has hit the capital Tehran the hardest.

“Due to the unavailability of beds in intensive care units and even in emergency units, ambulances go from one hospital to another to have patients admitted,” the official IRINN news site quoted the head of infectious diseases at the Masih Daneshvari Hospital in Tehran as saying. “Newly-arriving coronavirus patients have to wait for beds to become free,” said the physician.

The Health Ministry registered new 230 deaths, taking the total toll to 27,888 in the worst-hit country in the Middle East. The total number of identified cases stand at 488,236, ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV.

From Saturday, face masks will become mandatory in public in the capital Tehran. Masks have already been compulsory in public indoors since July, and will now be required outdoors in Tehran as well. State media reports say many people have flouted the regulation.

Schools, libraries, mosques and other public institutions in Tehran closed for a week on Oct. 3 as part of measures to stem the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.

The closure also affect universities, seminaries, libraries, museums, theatres, gyms, cafes and hair salons in the capital.

Alireza Zali, head of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce, on Thursday asked the Health Minister to extend the closures in the capital for at least another week.

Iran, which was one of the first countries outside of East Asia to be hit hard by the pandemic early this year, saw another surge in the months that followed and is now experiencing a third wave.

(Editing by Toby Chopra and Tomasz Janowski)

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