Iran warns of months of crisis as virus deaths reach 3,160

Azadi (Freedom) Tower in the Iranian capital is lit up with flags and messages of hope in solidarity with all the countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic (AFP Photo/-)

Tehran (AFP) - Iran on Thursday reported 124 new deaths from the coronavirus, raising its total to 3,160, as President Rouhani warned that the country may still battle the pandemic for another year.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced the latest toll in a news conference and confirmed 3,111 new infections over the past 24 hours, bringing Iran's total to 50,468.

He said 16,711 of those hospitalised had so far recovered.

Iran has been scrambling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak since it reported its first cases on February 19.

After weeks of refraining from imposing a lockdown or quarantine measures, Tehran decided last week to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.

There is no official lockdown within Iran's cities, although the government has repeatedly urged Iranians to stay at home to contain the spread of the virus.

Rouhani warned at a cabinet meeting Thursday that there was no quick fix.

"Coronavirus is not something for which we can point to a certain date and say it will be completely eradicated by then," he said.

Rouhani said the virus "may be with us in upcoming months, or until the end" of the current Iranian year, in March 2021.

The country, one of the world's worst hit by the pandemic which originated in China, must remain vigilant and more limitations may be implemented, he said.

Iran has closed schools and universities until early April and also four key Shiite pilgrimage sites, including the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom.

It has discouraged travel, cancelled the main weekly Friday prayers and temporarily closed parliament.