(Reuters) – The death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak in Iran rose by 78 in the past 24 hours to 6,418 and the total number of infections to 101,650, the Health Ministry said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Iran has suffered the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. There has been a gradual increase in the number of infections in 15 provinces over the past couple of days, a Health Ministry spokesman said on Twitter.

“At the moment we can’t pass judgment about this issue and it’s necessary to wait and see what the statistics are in the coming days,” Kianush Jahanpur said.

Iran, keen to mitigate the pandemic’s blow to an economy already battered by U.S. sanctions, has been gradually lifting restrictions on public life imposed to limit contagion from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

A ban on inter-city trips and business at shopping malls has been lifted and President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday mosques and schools would reopen soon in areas that have been consistently free of the coronavirus.

ISNA news agency said on Wednesday hair salons for men and women have been given permission to reopen.

Health officials, however, have repeatedly warned that Iran could face a new wave of infections if social distancing is not maintained and masks and gloves not used as more and more restrictions are lifted.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Mark Heinrich)