Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that 35 million Iranians may contract the corona virus because the country still has no herd immunity, although a quarter of the population may already be infected.
It appears to be the first time that a senior Iranian official has stated that the country is trying to defeat COVID-19 through herd immunity.
The virus has killed more than 588,000 people and infected nearly 14 million people worldwide since it was first discovered in China late last year.
Iran is fighting a resurgence of COVID-19. The numbers show an increase in both new infections and deaths since a two-month low in May.
On Saturday, the Department of Health reported a further 188 coronavirus deaths and 2,166 infections in the last 24 hours.
This has resulted in a total of 13,979 deaths from 271,606 cases since Iran reported its first cases in mid-February.
The rising toll has prompted authorities to reintroduce restrictions in the hardest hit provinces after lifting them nationwide in April, and Tehran extended them by an additional week on Friday.
"We estimate that 25 million Iranians have been infected with the virus to date," Rouhani said during a Task Force TV meeting to fight the virus in the country.
"We have to consider the possibility that another 30 to 35 million people will be infected," he added, citing the results of a study by the Ministry of Health.
"We have not yet achieved herd immunity and we have no choice but to be united and break the transmission chain of the coronavirus."
Rouhani's deputy communications director, Alireza Moezi, said hours later on Twitter that the 25 million actually refer to "those who have encountered the virus and have achieved full immunity".
Rouhani also said that the study may require Iran to prepare for twice the number of hospitalizations in the past five months.
The study shows that "out of 1,000 people infected, 500 show no symptoms," added Rouhani, warning that the biggest challenge is "spreading more viruses and over a longer period of time" than those identified.
The Department of Health does not report the total number of hospital stays through COVID-19.
Since the announcement of its first cases in mid-February, the Islamic Republic has struggled to contain the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the Middle East.
Iran failed to impose total closures, but closed schools, canceled public gatherings, and banned travel between provinces in March before the restrictions were lifted next month to reopen its sanctioned economy.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)