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Iran's Supreme Leader Says Fighting Coronavirus 'Main Priority'

An Iranian woman wearing a face mask walks on a street in Tehran.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged the authorities to prioritize public health above any economic or security concerns as the Middle East's hardest-hit country battles a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

Iran's death toll from COVID-19 topped 32,000 this week. "We must do everything" to reduce the number of deaths, Khamenei said, adding that health officials "must ensure that infected people are identified and treated from the start" of their illness.

Khamenei told officials during a meeting with the country's top counter-coronavirus committee that "the main priority in decision-making is people's health."

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Features and analysis, videos, and infographics explore how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the countries in our region.

He also urged "all organizations" to follow strictly the Health Ministry's guidelines to help restrict the virus's spread, "regardless of other considerations."

On October 24, Iran recorded 5,814 new infections, which took the total number of confirmed cases to 562,705. The Health Ministry put the official death toll from COVID-19 at 32,320, adding 335 fatalities from the past 24 hours.

Earlier this week, a top health official said that the true number of deaths from the outbreak is likely 2 1/2 times higher.

Despite the high infection rates, the government has resisted a complete lockdown, fearing it would further devastate the economy, already weakened by U.S. sanctions.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters