As cases of COVID-19 multiply across the country, Iran has suspended flights with neighboring Pakistan and hard-hit India.
Tehran, Iran – All flights to and from India and Pakistan have been suspended as Iran continues to face a severe fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
The decision to stop the flights came at the suggestion of the Ministry of Health who recommended the move, as it said the strain of coronavirus found in India could pose a much more serious risk than the variant first found. in the UK, which has now become dominant in Iran. .
“We are now facing a new threat which is the Indian virus, worse than the English, Brazilian and South African viruses,” President Hassan Rouhani warned on Saturday.
“If this virus also enters the country, we will face a major problem,” he said during a televised session of the national anti-coronavirus task force.
Rohani said the rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths show that the condition of most of Iran’s 32 provinces is “of concern” as only a handful are believed to have reached peaks in transmission during the fourth wave.
Iran’s health ministry said on Saturday that an additional 374 people had died in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll in the worst-affected country in the Middle East to more than 69,000. Iran has recorded around 2.3 million cases since February 2020.
The country saw its worst daily case count of 25,492 last week, the highest since the peak of the third wave in November.
The capital Tehran is by far the most affected by the pandemic and often sees a third of all deaths in the country on a daily basis.
Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra, the country’s largest cemetery, last week recorded a record 350 daily COVID and non-COVID deaths, the highest in 50 years.
Iran has imposed a number of restrictions, including partial closures and provincial travel restrictions on cities rated “red” or “orange” on a scale indicating the severity of outbreaks two weeks ago that were extended. until Friday.
No new restrictions or extensions were introduced on Saturday as the country’s economy continues to struggle under the double blow of the pandemic and severe US sanctions.
Immunization efforts continue to fall behind
Rouhani said on Saturday that delivering vaccines to Iran’s population of 82 million was a top priority for his outgoing government.
But so far, only two million doses of vaccines from Russia, China, India, Cuba and the global COVAX initiative have been imported into the country, with just over half a million people who have received at least one vaccine.
Iran said earlier this month that it had reached a deal with Russia to receive 60 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine by the end of 2021, and said 16.8 million doses would be imported via COVAX in the coming months.
That’s when three hopeful local vaccine candidates are in various stages of human trials, one of which is expected to begin on Sunday, the third phase which will see 10,000 people receive the vaccine.
Iran and Cuba have also been working for months on a joint vaccine that is expected to begin its third phase of human trials in Iran in the foreseeable future.