Iran President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday that 35 million Iranians may contract the coronavirus, as the country still did not have herd immunity although a quarter of the population may have already been infected.
He also disclosed that more than 200,000 patients have been hospitalized since February and almost 14,000 have died.
Iranians officials have not explained what the report's estimates are based on.
"A report from the research department of the health ministry has assessed that 25 million Iranians have been infected with the disease so far", Rouhani said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.
Iran has estimated that 25 million Iranians have contracted Covid-19 so far. Official case numbers rose to 273,788 on Sunday, with 14,188 deaths, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.
Iran, with a population of more than 80 million, has been the Middle East country hardest hit by the epidemic.
Govt makes face masks mandatory in shops
But there are already concerns from the police who have called it "nigh on enforceable". Those who fail to comply with the rule could face fines of up to £100.
Rouhani also said he believes an additional 30-35 million people could be infected in coming months, again without citing the basis for his estimate.
In recent weeks, Iran has seen daily death tolls spike to their highest-ever levels, sparking increasing fear even as government officials say they can't lock the country back down for fear of cratering its sanctions-hit economy. That included 2,379 new cases and 183 deaths in the previous 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry.
Authorities on Saturday reimposed restrictions for a week in the capital Tehran, including banning religious and cultural functions, closing boarding schools, cafes, indoor pools, amusement parks and zoos.
It appears to be the first time a senior Iranian official has indicated the country is seeking to defeat COVID-19 via herd immunity.
After denying the existence of the virus in Iran for days after the likely first infection took hold, Iran held mass demonstrations and a parliamentary election, turning out thousands of people en masse. Almost 14,000 people have died in Iran after being infected with the virus, according to the ministry. Others who may have died at home have not been recorded and some families have opted not to disclose that their loved ones ever had the virus to avoid any stigmas associated with it.