TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran said it will impose a six-day “general lockdown” in cities across the country after it was hit by what it describes as the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, state media reported Saturday.
The closure includes all bazaars, markets and public offices, as well as cinemas, gyms and restaurants in all Iranian cities.
The closure will start on Monday and will last through Saturday.
The National Task Force on Coronavirus, which issued the decision, also ordered a travel ban between all Iranian cities from Sunday to Friday.
Also on Saturday, Iran reported 466 deaths and 29,700 new cases of coronavirus in a single day. This brings the total number of deaths due to the epidemic to 97,208, and the total confirmed cases to 4,389,085.
Last week, Iran recorded a record one-day number of deaths and new confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 42,541 cases of the novel coronavirus and a daily death toll of 588.
Iran is struggling to immunize its people against the epidemic. Like much of the world, it is still far behind countries like the United States in vaccinations, with only 3.8 million of its population of over 80 million receiving vaccine doses.
Many medical workers on the front lines have been vaccinated with Iran’s locally produced vaccines, or the Chinese state-backed Sinopharma vaccine that may be less effective than other vaccinations.
The Iranian government announced that its homemade vaccine provides 85% protection against the Corona virus, without disclosing data or details. Iran also imports the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, as well as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through the UN-backed COVAX programme.
So far, the authorities have avoided imposing harsh rules on a population poorly equipped to endure them. Iran, which has suffered the worst outbreak of the virus in the region, is suffering from a series of crises: harsh US sanctions, global isolation, a heat wave, the worst blackouts in recent memory, and ongoing protests over water and electricity shortages.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all state affairs, criticized in January closing any possibility of US or British vaccines entering the country, describing them as “forbidden”.
Currently, the majority of Iranians who receive vaccines rely on foreign-made shots. A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said that Iran can import Western vaccines “as long as they are not produced in the United States or Britain.”