© Reuters. Tehran reopens after a two-week shutdown
DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s health minister on Saturday warned of a fourth increase in COVID-19 with the possible spread of a mutated virus in the worst-affected country in the Middle East. President Hassan Rouhani told state television that “alarms were sounding for a fourth wave of coronavirus” as at least nine cities and towns in southwestern Iran were declared high-risk “red” zones after an increase in cases on Friday. “Difficult days are beginning for us and you must prepare to combat the most uncontrollable mutated virus that is sadly infecting the country,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki told the directors of medical schools in a meeting broadcast live by the state television. Namaki said Iran’s first three deaths this week from the variant of the virus first found in Britain, including that of a 71-year-old woman with no travel history, suggested the virus was spreading and that it “could soon be found. in any city, village or family. ” Namaki urged Iranians to avoid gatherings to “not turn weddings into funerals” during one of the traditionally most popular wedding months in the country. Iran began a vaccination campaign on Tuesday, two weeks after declaring that there were no “red” cities left in the country. The inoculation is focused on the hospital’s intensive care staff, as authorities expect enough vaccinations for the general population. On Friday, Iran received 100,000 of the 2 million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine it ordered and state media said Moscow could increase the order to 5 million injections and allow Iran to produce the vaccine locally. Tehran also expects to receive more than 4 million doses of the injection from AstraZeneca (NASDAQ :). Iran plans to vaccinate 1.3 million people by March 20. Iran has registered more than 1.5 million cases and 58,883 deaths, and the death toll of 74 on Saturday corresponds to a minimum of eight months, according to data from the Health Ministry. Tehran began human trials of the first of its three national candidate vaccines in December.