Iranians were urged not to ignore health ministry guidance and social distancing rules

Iran’s government has warned of a second, stronger wave in the Middle East’s biggest coronavirus outbreak, after reporting its highest daily number of cases in the past two months.

The health ministry said on Monday that 2,979 new infections had been recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 154,445. There were also 81 deaths, raising the overall toll to 7,878.

“People seem to think the coronavirus is over,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki told a news conference. “The outbreak is not over yet and at any moment it may come back stronger than before.”

“If our people fail to respect the health protocols… we must prepare ourselves for the worst situation.”

Since early April, the government has been trying as much as it can to reopen businesses, schools and mosques.

But Mr Namaki said there had now been surges of infections in the western province of Kermanshah and the south-eastern provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan and Hormozgan.

He lamented that people had ignored official pleas not to hold weddings or funerals.