Iran said on Sunday it will make mask-wearing mandatory in public from next week as it confirmed 144 more fatalities from the novel coronavirus, bringing the nationwide death toll to 10,508.

A further 2,489 people tested positive for COVID-19, raising the overall count to 222,669, Health Ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari said.

She added that a total of 183,301 people have recovered, and been discharged from hospitals so far, adding that 2,946 patients remain in critical condition.

Over 1.6 million tests have been conducted in the Middle Eastern country to date, according to the spokesperson.

Face masks compulsory

Stressing the importance of observing health protocols to fight the virus, President Hassan Rouhani made wearing face masks in public mandatory from next week.

“Starting July 5, for two weeks, wearing masks in all public gatherings will be compulsory,” he told the country’s anti-virus task force.

The decision will be implemented in August as well, if necessary, the president added.

Rouhani said 2020 is the hardest year for Iran in terms of economic distress due to sanctions and the virus, but the country hopes to overcome this difficulty by working together.

Iran reported its first COVID-19 cases in February. It imposed restrictions in March, which were lifted gradually from April.

The sanctions-hit economy is starting to suffer under the pressures of the health crisis.

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