(Reuters) – Iranians have returned to shops, bazaars and parks this week as the country eases coronavirus restrictions, and the daily increase in the death toll from the illness remained below 100 on Thursday.

Iran has been one of the countries worst hit by the outbreak in the Middle East. The death toll rose by 90 in the past 24 hours to 5,481, while the total number of confirmed cases rose to 87,026, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement.

The daily rise in the death toll has held below 100 since April 14 as the country’s leaders have pushed to resume ordinary life.

Authorities allowed shopping malls, bazaars and parks to re-open this week and also lifted a ban on inter-city travel. State TV showed footage earlier this week of highways in Tehran packed with cars and groups of people out shopping.

Seeking a balance between protecting public health and shielding an economy already battered by sanctions, the government has refrained from imposing wholesale lockdowns of cities like those seen in many other countries.

But it has extended closures of schools and universities and banned cultural, religious and sports gatherings.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Toby Chopra and Frances Kerry)