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Sunday, 13 June 2021

Iran's virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

According to state estimates, Iran has registered a total of 1,631,169 infections

AFP , Sunday 28 Feb 2021
Iran
FILE PHOTO Iranian couple wearing protective masks to prevent contracting a coronavirus walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 20, 2020 REUTERS
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Iran's coronavirus fatalities broke the 60,000 mark on Sunday, official figures showed, as the Islamic republic battles the Middle East's worst outbreak of the illness.

The grim milestone comes after several Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, warned of a Covid-19 "fourth wave" with cases rising in certain areas of the country.

"Sadly in the past 24 hours, 93 people lost their lives to Covid-19, and total deaths from this disease reached 60,073," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address.

Iran has registered a total of 1,631,169 infections, according to the ministry.

But some officials -- including Health Minister Saeed Namaki -- have admitted in the past that the actual numbers are likely higher than the official figures.

"We have to observe (virus) restrictions probably for months, and maybe for the whole of the next year," President Rouhani said at the country's weekly Covid-19 taskforce meeting on Saturday.

He called on citizens to better observe health protocols in the new Iranian year starting on March 21, saying Iran will face a "more difficult" situation over the next year by having to battle "mutated strains of the virus".

The coronavirus taskforce spokesman Alireza Raisi on Friday said that Iran is "very concerned" about the more contagious British variant of the virus, which has already "circulated in the country."

"We have identified 112 people infected with the British variant in the country, eight of whom have died," he said, according to the health ministry.

He noted that the variant was seen in many provinces including the capital Tehran, and the virus' new focal point in the southwest, Khuzestan.

Similar to previous waves, Khuzestan is among the first areas to relapse into "red", the highest level on Iran's colour-coded risk scale.

The number of daily infections nationwide has hit 8,000 in recent days, a level still much lower than the record high of 14,051 infections registered on November 27.

Daily deaths dropped below 100 in early January, the lowest level since June.

- 110,000 doses "distributed" -
Tehran started a national vaccination campaign on February 9 using Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, with the first target groups being health workers, the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Head of health ministry public relations Kianoush Jahanpour told AFP on Sunday that "110,000 vaccine doses have been distributed" in Iran so far, without specifying the number of people who had received the first jab.

The second dose will start being administered on March 2, he added.

The Islamic republic has bought a total of two million doses of Sputnik V, according to Jahanpour, and they will be delivered gradually.

Iranian state media on Sunday reported that 250,000 doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine were delivered to Tehran, a day after Jahanpour announced that they were donated by the Chinese government.

Health Minister Namaki has said Iran would also receive 4.2 million doses of the vaccine developed by Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and Oxford University, purchased via the international vaccine mechanism Covax.

Iran is also working on locally developed vaccine projects, with the clinical trials of the second homegrown vaccine starting on Sunday.

The jab, dubbed Razi Cov Pars, was developed at the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, which is linked to the agriculture ministry, and unveiled earlier this month.

Its clinical trial began with two male volunteers receiving it at Tehran's Rasoul Akram hospital, state television showed.

The Razi facility's deputy chief, Mohammad-Hassan Falah-Mehrabadi, told attendees at a ceremony at the hospital that 133 people have volunteered for the trial.

The Islamic republic started clinical trials of its first locally developed vaccine in late December.

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