Iran's health ministry on Sunday reported 11 new deaths from the novel coronavirus and 385 infections, bringing the overall number of lives lost to 54 and cases to 978.
Spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference, “Eleven people lost their lives” in the past 24 hours"
International experts are questioning the scale of the new coronavirus epidemic in Iran, where the official death toll is second only to China and risks creating a regional epicentre of contagion.
While Iran has acknowledged 54 deaths among 593 confirmed infections nationwide — with a vice-president and deputy health minister among those testing positive — unofficial tolls are much higher.
Six epidemiologists based in Canada used a mathematical model to estimate that there have been more than 18,000 cases on Iranian soil.
This week, Reporters Without Borders added its own criticism of Tehran's handling of the outbreak, accusing the government of stifling news on the spread of the virus.
According to Iran's official data, more than seven percent of people in Iran confirmed to be infected with the virus have died, a far higher mortality rate than in other countries.
Situated at a geographical crossroads in the Middle East and surrounded by countries with creaking infrastructure and challenging humanitarian conditions, Iran's situation gives cause for worry.
Iranian authorities have taken measures to counter the virus' spread, including cancelling Friday prayers in several cities, closing schools until at least Tuesday, shutting parliament until “further notice” and restricting travel within the country.