Iran braces for fifth wave as Delta variant spreads

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Saturday that the country could experience a fifth wave of coronavirus infections as the highly contagious variant of the Delta spreads.

“There are fears that the whole country will enter a fifth wave if we do not pay enough attention to compliance with health protocols,” Rouhani said in remarks broadcast on state television. “The Delta variant entered the country from the south and southeast, and we should have taken care to prevent its spread across the country.”

Iran borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have recently experienced epidemics.

Over the past two weeks, the average daily reports of new cases in Iran have increased by 21%, according to a New York Times database. Since the start of the pandemic, the country has reported more than 3.2 million cases and more than 84,000 deaths.

In a meeting with members of Iran’s coronavirus task force on Thursday, Mr Rouhani said people should fully comply with safety protocols “so that we no longer have to impose severe restrictions.”

Alireza Raeesi, spokesperson for the task force, said on Saturday that authorities estimate that less than 70% of Iranians currently adhere to health and safety rules aimed at combating the virus.

In April, the country, faced with a fourth wave, imposed confinement In certain regions.

At the start of the pandemic, Iran struggled to control one of the world’s worst epidemics after authorities downplayed the severity of the virus. A power struggle has also complicated the country’s response to the pandemic.

The country’s lagging vaccination campaign has not helped. Only about 2 percent of the population has been fully immunized, according to data compiled from government sources by the Our world in data project at the University of Oxford. Iran has administered around 5.7 million coronavirus vaccines, representing around 5% of the population, according to a New York Times tracker.

Mr Rouhani addressed the vaccine shortage in Iran on Thursday, saying it would be eliminated by importing foreign vaccines and using domestically produced vaccines. Among the imported vaccines, Iran had received more than 2.1 million AstraZeneca vaccines in May through Covax, the global vaccine sharing program.

Officials said Thursday they expected the country’s vaccine distribution effort to intensify in the coming weeks.

At the same time, the president said being fully vaccinated was not an excuse to bypass Covid mitigation measures, that Iranians should postpone their travel, and “foreign nationals infected with this virus” should not. not enter Iran.

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.

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