Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has expressed fears Iran could be hit by a new wave of Covid-19 due to an outbreak of the Delta variant in the hardest-hit country in the Middle East.
“There is concern that we are on the way to a fifth wave across the country,” Rouhani said at a meeting of the Iranian anti-virus task force, warning the public to be careful because the Delta variant was entry into the country from the south and the south. is.
Covid-19 has killed more than 84,000 people out of more than 3.2 million infections in Iran, according to official figures which authorities say do not account for all cases.
Delta, now present in at least 85 countries, is the most contagious of all Covid-19 variants ever identified.
The Islamic Republic confirmed three cases of the Delta variant on May 5 in central Qom province.
Iran’s health ministry has classified as “red” – the highest category on Iran’s coronavirus risk scale – the capital, Tehran, and nine other cities in Tehran province.
The southern and southeastern provinces of Fars, Hormozgan, Kerman and Sistan-Balochistan are also now classified as “red”.
In red zones, all stores must remain closed except those considered essential, including grocery stores and pharmacies.
Authorities in Sistan-Baluchistan province said on Wednesday they had banned travel across the border with Pakistan until further notice, although goods transported by road were allowed.
On Saturday, Alireza Raisi, spokesperson for the anti-virus task force, called for “strict controls on the country’s borders”, especially those located in eastern Iran.
Strangled by US sanctions which have made it difficult to transfer money to foreign companies, Iran says it has difficulty importing vaccines for its population of 83 million.
More than 4.4 million people have received a first dose of the Covid vaccine in Iran, while only 1.7 million have received the two necessary vaccines, according to the Ministry of Health.
“God willing, the situation will improve in terms of vaccinations from next week,” said Rouhani.
Iranian authorities have approved the emergency use of two locally produced vaccines.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei received the first dose of one on June 25, his office announced on Twitter.
“We must follow exactly all the rules that we have issued for the red zones” and other areas affected by the virus, said Rouhani, stressing that “if the guidelines are questioned or not followed, we will have a problem ”.
The outgoing Rouhani administration has drawn criticism for its handling of the pandemic.
Rouhani, a moderate, is in the final weeks of his presidency after serving a maximum of two consecutive terms.
He will be replaced in August by the ultraconservative clergyman and former head of the judiciary Ebrahim Raisi.