Iranian authorities have enforced new nationwide restrictions after lack of control over travels during the Persian new year holidays that led to an explosive increase in COVID-19 cases, Axios reported on Sunday.
Health officials confirmed more than 19,660 coronavirus infections on Saturday, as the spike in new cases follows last month's holiday celebrations and forcing authorities to impose a 10-day lockdown in the face of a fourth wave of infections, state TV reported.
In a televised address Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani said the main driver of the country's fourth wave is the more contagious variant that was first detected in the UK, reports said.
"Unfortunately, today we have entered a fourth wave," WION quoted Rouhani as saying in the televised address.
The lockdown affects 23 of Iran's 31 provinces, health ministry spokesperson Alireza Raisi said. Schools, moviehouses, and sports facilities have been ordered to close and gatherings are prohibited during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday. The new lockdown also affects restaurants, parks, beauty salons, bakeries, malls and bookstores.
The Islamic republic has reported more than 2 million COVID-19 infections since the pandemic broke out, including 64,232 fatalities, 193 of those being reported in the past 24 hours.
In the capital city Tehran and 250 other cities identified as "red-zones," which have the highest infection rates, most non-essential services have been ordered shut. Travel throughout "red-zone" areas is banned, and a curfew for private vehicles have been enforced between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Iran has one of the worst COVID-19 cases in the Middle East. Fewer than 320,000 vaccine doses had been distributed in the country of around 83 million as of April 5, the World Health Organization said.
COVAX, an international partnership to deliver COVID-19 vaccines across the globe, rolled out its first batch of shipment to Iran last week from the Netherlands containing 700,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses.