Iranian president warns of 'fifth wave' from delta variant

Iranian president warns of 'fifth wave' from delta variant
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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday said that the highly transmissible delta coronavirus variant could lead to a fifth wave of infections in the country. 

Rouhani said in remarks during a television meeting of Iran’s anti-coronavirus task force that safety restrictions implemented during the pandemic, including wearing masks and social distancing, “must be fully observed” to prevent the situation from getting worse in the country.

Iran is the Middle Eastern country that has been hit hardest by the pandemic, with more than 84,600 coronavirus fatalities recorded.

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“The delta variant entered the country from the south and southeast, and we should have been careful to prevent its spread in the country,” Rouhani said, according to Reuters

“There are concerns that the whole country may enter a fifth wave if enough care is not taken in following health protocols,” he added, citing state reports that 69 percent of people in the country were not “observing the precautions.” 

“All health regulations ... must be fully observed,” he said, according to Reuters. “Otherwise, we will have a problem.” 

The World Health Organization said that as of Friday, the delta variant first identified in India has now be detected in at least 98 countries. 

Reuters noted Saturday that Iran’s capital of Tehran and 91 other cities and towns have been designated by state health authorities as high-risk “red” zones for COVID-19. 

Several other safety restrictions have also been implemented, including closing nonessential businesses and limiting employee attendance in Tehran’s government offices to 30 percent, Reuters reported. 

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In total, the country of about 83 million people has seen roughly 3.2 million COVID-19 cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University

While Iran has approved two locally produced vaccines, including one developed with Cuba, government officials have argued that continued U.S. sanctions on the country have limited vaccine distribution. 

The U.S. sanctions, imposed on Tehran after former President TrumpDonald TrumpTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Schumer sets Monday showdown on debt ceiling-government funding bill Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe MORE withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, do not include medicine and other humanitarian supplies. 

However, Iran has argued that the punishments on its oil industry and other sectors have dissuaded some banks from processing Iranian financial transactions. 

While the Biden administration has been engaged in talks about a potential renegotiation to the nuclear deal, Iran has said that it wants the U.S. to lift all sanctions over its nuclear program before a new agreement can be reached.