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Iran plans tougher restrictions as coronavirus toll rises


DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran had 117 new coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 2,757, a health ministry spokesman said on Monday, prompting the Middle East's worst hit country to consider tougher curbs on movement.

The total number of infections climbed to 41,495.

"In the past 24 hours we had 117 new deaths and 3,186 new confirmed cases of people infected with the coronavirus," Kianush Jahanpur told state TV, calling on Iranians to stay at home.

Iran has had an intercity travel ban since Thursday and the government has extended the closure of universities and schools and the suspension of all cultural, religious and sports events.

"If necessary, we might impose tougher measures as our priority is the nation's safety and health," said Iran's first Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri, according to state TV.

Iran last week warned of a surge of cases as many Iranians ignored calls to avoid traveling for Persian New Year holidays that started on March 20.

To stem the spread of the virus in crowded jails, Iran's judiciary on Sunday extended furloughs for 100,000 prisoners. On March 17, Iran said it had freed about 85,000 people from jail temporarily, including political prisoners.

Iranian media on Monday, citing the governor of Iran's Fars province, Enayatollah Rahimi, reported that prisoners at one prison "broke cameras and caused other damage in two sections of the prison where violent criminals are kept".

The state news agency IRNA said similar riots had erupted in other prisons since March 20. Families have called for the release of all prisoners.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Macfie)

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