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 has reported.
The lockdown includes all bazaars, markets and public offices, as well as movie theatres, gyms and restaurants in all Iranian cities. It will begin on Monday and will last through to Saturday.
The national coronavirus taskforce, which issued the decision, also ordered a travel ban between all Iranian cities from Sunday to Friday.
Iran on Saturday reported 466 deaths and 29,700 new cases of coronavirus. 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 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 such as the US and UK in vaccinations, with only 3.8 million of its more than 80 million people having been fully vaccinated.
Many frontline 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 vaccine provided 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 programme.
So far, authorities have avoided imposing heavy-handed rules on a population badly equipped to bear them. Iran, which has had 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’ssupreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, in January slammed shut any possibility of vaccines made in the US or UK entering the country, calling them “forbidden”.
For now, the majority of Iranians receiving vaccines rely on foreign-made shots. A health ministry spokesperson said Iran could import western vaccines “as long as they’re not produced in the US or Britain”.