TEHRAN -- Iran is to impose a one-week lockdown and a ban on road travel amid a fifth COVID-19 surge in the country, national television reported on Saturday.
All non-essential businesses and offices will have to close under the nationwide lockdown from Monday to Aug. 21, in an effort to curb the highly contagious Delta variant.
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.
“All roads will be closed except for trucks carrying food and essential goods and ambulances. This traffic ban will be very strictly imposed,” Alireza Raisi, spokesman for the national coronavirus task force, told the television.
Authorities will only allow open-air gatherings for ongoing Muharram mourning ceremonies, Raisi said.
The Health Ministry reported 29,700 new cases on Saturday, and 466 daily deaths, down from a record daily toll of 588 fatalities on Monday. Total deaths have reached 97,208, according to official figures.
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.
Tehran experienced its deadliest day on record on Friday, when 390 people died, including 216 from COVID-19. That figure broke a grim record in the 51-year history of Behesht-e Zahra, the capital’s cemetery, which is the largest in Iran.
The latest color-coded map denoting the severity of outbreaks shows that zero cities are classified as “blue”, which indicates the lowest level of alarm. That is while a whopping 358 counties, encompassing almost all of the country’s 31 provinces, are classified as “red”.
Critics have accused the former government of mismanagement over slow vaccinations with only 3.8 million people fully inoculated in a population of 83 million.
But inhuman U.S. sanctions have also hampered efforts to buy foreign vaccines and delayed deliveries.
Many front-line medical workers have been vaccinated with Iran’s locally produced shots, or the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm vaccine.
Health officials have announced that Iran’s homemade vaccine provides 85 percent protection from the coronavirus. Iran also imports Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, as well as the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot
through the United Nations-backed COVAX program.
A health ministry spokesman said that Iran could import Western vaccines “as long as they’re not produced in the U.S. or Britain.”
President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday said imports of 30 million doses have been finalized, and 60 million more doses are needed to control the pandemic.
More than one million doses of COVIran Barekat, the country’s first locally developed vaccine, have been administered.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on Wednesday said the pandemic is now the country’s number one priority, and “efforts must be redoubled so vaccines can be provided for the people through any means necessary”.