Iran says it will impose a six-day-long “general lockdown” in cities across the country after being hit by what it describes as its fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, state media reported Saturday.
The lockdown includes all bazaars, markets and public offices, as well as movie theaters, gyms and restaurants in all Iranian cities.
The lockdown will begin on Monday and will last through Saturday.
The national coronavirus taskforce, 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 patients in a single day. That brought the total pandemic death toll to 97,208, and total confirmed cases to 4,389,085.
Last week, Iran hit a record in both its single-day death toll and confirmed new cases of COVID-19, with 42,541 new coronavirus cases and a daily death toll of 588.
Iran is struggling to vaccinate its people against the pandemic. Like much of the world, it remains far behind countries like the United States in vaccinations, with only 3.8 million of its more than 80 million people having received both vaccine doses.
Many front-line medical workers have been vaccinated with Iran's locally produced shots, or the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm vaccine that may be less effective than other inoculations.
Iran's government announced that its homemade vaccine provides 85% protection from the coronavirus, without disclosing data or details. Iran also imports Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, as well as the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot through the United Nations-backed COVAX program.
So far, authorities have avoided imposing heavy-handed rules on a population badly equipped to bear them. Iran, which has suffered the worst virus outbreak in the region, is reeling from a series of crises: tough 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 final say on all state matters, in January slammed shut any possibility of American or British vaccines entering the country, calling them “forbidden.”
For now, the majority of Iranians receiving vaccines rely on foreign-made shots. A health ministry spokesman said that Iran could import Western vaccines “as long as they're not produced in the US or Britain.” (AP)