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Iran orders mask usage as coronavirus cases spike

Iran orders mask usage as coronavirus cases spike
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Iran, an early global epicenter of the coronavirus, made mask-wearing mandatory on Sunday as cases surge again.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seeking to convince the public to take the threat seriously, has released an image of himself in a mask, urging the country’s 80 million residents to don them as well, The Associated Press reported.

“We see that some consider being infected with the virus bad and hide it,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday, according to the AP, citing a transcript on a state website. “If someone knows that they have been infected with coronavirus, they have a religious and human duty to inform others about it.”

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Iranian leaders have tried to persuade citizens to take precautions against the virus, but a survey by state-owned polling center ISPA found that of a sample of 1,055 Tehran residents, only 41 percent said they are “highly worried” about the virus. In April, 58 percent said the same thing.

New coronavirus cases and deaths reached a record low in May after mass lockdowns were imposed in Iran. But since then, numbers have spiked again, with Tehran officials saying a combination of improved testing and reopenings had driven the surge.

Iranian officials have been particularly eager to remove restrictions on its economy, already crippled by sanctions the U.S. imposed after the Trump administration's 2018 withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Daily death tolls had risen again by mid-June, with single-day record of 163 deaths recorded on Sunday.

The total deaths from the virus are likely wider than currently known, according to the AP. Masoud Mardani, a member of Iran’s coronavirus task force, has cited data from random antibody tests indicating up to 18 million citizens may have already had the virus, although the nation has only confirmed about 240,000 cases of it.