Iran sets coronavirus infection record for 3rd straight day

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A woman prays at the grave of an unknown soldier who was killed during 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, at the shrine of Saint Saleh in northern Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, April 6, 2021. .(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran hit a new coronavirus infection record on Thursday for the third straight day, reporting 22,586 new cases as the country grapples with a severe spike following the Persian New Year holiday.

The new case count pushes Iran's total during the pandemic over 2 million, including 63,884 deaths after health authorities reported 185 new daily fatalities due to COVID-19. The single-day infection toll exceeded the previous record set Wednesday by over 1,600.

Iran, which has battled the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East for over a year, is in the midst of a major surge after millions defied government guidance to gather and travel during Nowruz, the country's biggest holiday. The health minister has ordered non-essential shops in the capital and other major cities closed. The nation's vaccine rollout, meanwhile, has gotten off to a slow start.

Sima Sadat Lari, Health Ministry spokeswoman, on Thursday urged an increasingly wary public to avoid big gatherings, calling it a “moral and social responsibility.”

“The very dangerous situation of the disease in recent days has led to us losing a number of compatriots,“ she said. “Yet many of us still cannot say ‘no’ to invitations to parties, weddings and funerals."