TEHRAN -- Iran’s health
ministry on Sunday reported more than 680 daily COVID deaths for the first time, as nationwide curbs to contain the spread of the virus were lifted.
The ministry said the deaths of 684 people in the past 24 hours brought the total number of fatalities to 102,038.
Iran also registered 36,419 new infections raising the total since the pandemic started to 4,677,114.
Last week Iran tightened curbs to contain the spread of the virus.
The six-day restrictive measures that ended on Saturday included the closure of government buildings, banks and non-essential shops.
A nationwide ban on private car travel between provinces remains in force until August 27.
Iran has avoided imposing a full lockdown on its 83-million-strong population, instead resorting to piecemeal measures such as temporary travel bans and business closures.
Since late June, Iran has seen what officials have called a “fifth wave” of infections, the country’s worst yet, which they have largely blamed on the more contagious Delta variant of the virus.
Daily deaths and infections have hit record highs several times this month.
The Islamic Republic launched a vaccination drive in February but it has progressed slower than authorities had planned because of inhuman U.S. sanctions.
Choked by the sanctions that have made it difficult to transfer money abroad, Iran says it has struggled to import vaccines.
More than 16.7 million people have been given a first vaccine dose, but only 5.8 million have received the second, the health ministry said Sunday.
Chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Hussein Salami said on Sunday Iran will only import coronavirus vaccines from countries whose products are certain to be safe, or it will use vaccines produced indigenously by Iranian experts.
“Due to absolute distrust, we cannot trust the enemies and allow them to inject the vaccine solution into the bodies of our people, because we know that in the enemy’s strategy, paralyzing the Iranian people is a definite goal,” Gen. Salami said, referring to economic sanctions as the first plot to paralyze Iran.
“Using biological weapons is an integral part of the enemy’s military approach. Can the enemy be allowed to inject our people with its vaccine solution, which we do not know what is it?” he asked.
The IRGC chief said the ongoing propaganda surrounding the coronavirus vaccine, which aims to accuse Iran of refraining from importing foreign vaccines, is part of the enemy’s psychological operation, “because they want to show that we are dependent, humiliated and in need of the enemy.”
“They are asking why Iranians do not import vaccines from America. Even now, the Americans do not allow us to unfreeze our money to buy vaccines. How are they going to justify this contradiction? We are working under these conditions,” Major General Salami said.
“Our country is different from all other countries in the world, because while we are facing this mysterious and complex global disease ... at the same time, we are also facing the most severe and intensive global sanctions. We cannot use this nation’s money, which has been frozen in other countries’ banks by the U.S., to buy medicine, vaccine, and [other] pharmaceutical and medical articles,” he said.
The sanctions were imposed by the administration of former President Donald Trump under a “maximum pressure” campaign and have been maintained by the current administration of Joe Biden, which has refused to soften the bans to ease pandemic-related hardship on Iranians.
Iranian officials have described the sanctions as “economic terrorism” and “medical terrorism” over their deadly impact on ordinary people.