EghtesadOnline: President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday said the main reason for the emergence of the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic was the British variant of the virus that entered Iran through its border with Iraq.
“We did everything we could in March to prevent the fourth wave, but the British variant arrived in Khuzestan and Ilam provinces,” the president said during the National Coronavirus Headquarters meeting, his website reported.
The variant, named B.1.1.7, was first detected in the United Kingdom and it is believed to be 70% more contagious than existing strains.
Rouhani warned that “hard days and weeks lie ahead” as the number of cases keeps soaring and fatalities are expected to surpass 500 over the next few weeks.
Iran is close to running out of hospital beds and new restrictions have been imposed in cities on red alert to slow the spread of the fourth wave.
Overnight deaths jumped to 193 on Saturday, pushing the national toll to 64,230, spokeswoman for the Health Ministry, Sima Sadat Lari, said.
“More than 19,600 tested positive for the coronavirus within 24 hours, bringing the tally of cases to 2.049 million.”
Covid-19 Surges in 12 Provinces
Alireza Raeisi, spokesman of NCH, said 12 of Iran’s 31 provinces are experiencing a very sharp rise in coronavirus infections and need to be carefully monitored.
“The other 11 provinces are also seeing a sharp increase, but not as much as those 12,” he said, noting that Kerman, Fars, North and South Khorasan, and Zanjan are among the provinces reporting high transmission rates.
Explaining the unprecedented pace, Raeisi said, “The dominant strain in Iran is the mutated British variant.”
Iran has closed down most non-essential businesses in “red” cities to contain B.1.1.7, also known as VOC (variant of concern), as its healthcare infrastructure is overwhelmed by the rising number of patients.
Only 11 cities throughout the country are categorized as low-risk. Travel to and from cities color-coded “red” and “orange” has been banned to curb the outbreak.
Over 1.7 million people have recovered from the infectious disease and some 4,300 are in serious condition and have been hospitalized in ICU units across the country.
“Iran has administered more than 13.57 million diagnostic tests to detect infections since the pandemic began,” she said.
The number of coronavirus cases around the world rose to 135.4 million on Saturday and fatalities reached 2.93 million.