Iran surpassed 20,000 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, the health ministry said — the highest death toll for any Middle East country so far in the pandemic.
The announcement came as the Islamic Republic, which has been struggling with both the region’s largest outbreak and the highest number of fatalities, went ahead with university entrance exams for over 1 million students. Iran is also preparing for mass Shiite commemorations later this month.
Meanwhile, Lebanon reached 10,000 confirmed cases Wednesday after recording nearly 600 new infections. The small Mediterranean country of over 5 million continues to see the number of new cases accelerate.
Iran suffered the region’s first major outbreak, seeing top politicians, health officials and religious leaders in its Shiite theocracy stricken with the virus. It has since struggled to contain the spread of the virus across this nation of 80 million people, initially beating it back only to see it spike again beginning in June.
Iran reported its first coronavirus cases and deaths on the same day in February — the Mideast’s first outbreak of the virus — yet it only saw its highest single-day spike in reported cases in June. The highest daily death toll was reported in July.
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