Official warns of worse power outages in Iran as demand rises

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DUBAI, July 3 (Reuters) – Iran could face a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country, President Hassan Rouhani warned on Saturday .

“There are concerns that the whole country could enter a fifth wave if health protocols are not followed carefully. Today reports say only 69% of people are taking the precautions, â€Rouhani said in a statement broadcast on state television.

“The Delta variant invaded the country from the south and south-east and we should have been careful not to spread it in the country. All health regulations … must be followed in full or we will have a problem,” said Rouhani.

Iran, with a population of 83 million, has recorded 84,627 deaths from the coronavirus, the highest number in the Middle East.

The health authorities declared the capital Tehran and 91 other cities and municipalities to be “red” risk zones, 30 more than a week ago. They order internal travel restrictions, the closure of non-essential businesses and the limitation of the workforce to 30 percent of the workforce in the capital.

The government has blamed US sanctions hindering foreign vaccine purchases and delivery delays for the slow vaccination campaign. Rouhani said Iran received a small portion of the 16.8 million vaccines it ordered through COVAX’s global vaccine sharing program.

A spokesman for the coronavirus task force told state television that 7 million doses of vaccine had been distributed, with 2 million people receiving both doses and 4 million receiving only one dose.

Iran has approved two locally made vaccines for public use, including one with Cuba, and is working on five other home-grown vaccines. Tehran is also cooperating with Russia in the manufacture of the Sputnik V-Jab.

Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from US sanctions, which were re-imposed on Tehran in 2018 after President Donald Trump canceled an international deal on Iran’s nuclear program in 2015.

But US measures targeting sectors such as oil and financial activities have deterred some foreign banks from conducting financial transactions with Iran. Tehran says this has often disrupted efforts to import vital medicines and other humanitarian supplies.

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