Iran announced Sunday it was reimposing COVID-19 restrictions on major cities, as the spread of the highly contagious delta variant spurs fears of another devastating surge in the nation.
After over a year battling the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, Iran ordered the closures of non-essential businesses in 275 cities — including the capital, Tehran.
The shutdown of all public parks, restaurants, dessert shops, beauty salons, malls and bookstores applies to the country’s “red” and “orange” zones, or municipalities ranked as having an elevated risk of COVID-19.
The government said it was also imposing a travel ban between cities with high infection rates.
Iran’s new restrictions are designed to slow the spread of the delta variant first detected in India, which on Saturday President Hassan Rouhani warned was driving a potential “fifth wave” of infections in the country. Reports of new cases have risen steadily in recent weeks, nearly doubling from from mid-June to early July.
The country has reported a total of 3.2 million infections and 84,627 deaths — the highest toll in the region.
The spike comes as Iran’s vaccine rollout lags, with less than 2 per cent of the population of 84 million fully vaccinated, according to online scientific publication Our World in Data. Iran says it has administered some 6.3 million doses so far.
Those shots have mainly come from abroad, including from COVAX, an international initiative meant to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. Iran also has imported Chinese state-backed Sinopharm vaccines and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
What’s happening across Canada
As of 7 a.m. ET on Sunday, Canada had reported 1,416,661 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 6,256 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 26,348. More than 38 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered so far across the country.
In British Columbia, 78.5 per cent of eligible residents have been administered their first COVID-19 vaccine shot. About 33 per cent of those eligible have received a second dose.
In the Prairies, Saskatchewan logged 49 new COVID-19 cases and Manitoba added 48 and an additional death on Saturday, while in Alberta, demand for first shots has stagnated over the past two weeks.
Ontario registered 209 new cases and nine additional deaths on Saturday.
Starting Monday at 8 a.m., residents 12 to 17 years old will be eligible to book an appointment to receive their second shot of Pfizer through the provincial booking system. They must wait 28 days between doses, as recommended by the Ontario health ministry.
In Quebec, operating hours of the Olympic Stadium vaccination clinic in Montreal will be extended on July 5 given the nearby screening of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final, which will be played at the Bell Centre. People who wish to get vaccinated at the site can do so from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Monday.
In Prince Edward Island, more than 82 per cent of eligible residents have been administered their first vaccine dose, with just under 24 per cent fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the main drag of Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital city is now open to pedestrians only, as St. John’s has reopened a pedestrian mall along Water Street downtown. Businesses have built patios stretching across the sidewalk and onto the road where patrons can dine, shop and drink.
St. John’s city council introduced the pedestrian mall last year as a way to encourage people to stay outdoors safely during the pandemic.
In the North, Yukon health officials are now reducing the number of visitors to long-term care homes as the territory records 31 infections over the past two days. There have been more than 300 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Yukon since June 1.
Nunavut reported 10 new infections; and in the Northwest Territories, mask requirements and appointments at many Yellowknife institutions — such as the public library and pools — will be lifted on Monday.
What’s happening around the world
As of Sunday morning, more than 183.5 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to data published by Johns Hopkins University in the United States. The reported global death toll stood at more than 3.9 million.
In Europe, the U.K. government is working toward easing pandemic restrictions in England on July 19.
The data that will decide if that can happen is looking “very positive,” due to the success of the vaccination program, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said Sunday.
In an interview with Sky News, he said people can expect a shift toward “personal choice” when it comes to wearing masks.
WATCH | Europe sees surge in coronavirus cases:
Jenrick told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, however, that cases of COVD-19 might continue to rise significantly as restrictions are eased.
“But we now have to move into a different period where we learn to live with the virus, we take precautions and we as individuals take personal responsibility,” he said.
In Africa, South Africa hit a record of 26,000 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, its second record-breaking tally in as many days, as a rampant third wave of infections coursed through a largely unvaccinated population.
In Asia, Indonesia has ordered oxygen makers to prioritize medical needs amid growing demand from COVID-19 patients, the government said on Sunday.
In a statement, the Sardjito hospital on the island of Java said 63 patients died after it nearly ran out of oxygen over the period from Saturday until early on Sunday, when fresh supplies arrived.
However, a hospital spokesperson could not confirm if all the dead had suffered from COVID-19.