Iran reports three cases of Indian coronavirus variant

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Iran has detected three cases of the Indian Covid-19 variant feared to behind a devastating surge of the virus in India, the health minister said Wednesday.

"We have identified three confirmed cases among the Indians present," Saeed Namaki said, according to the ministry's official website, with the cases found in the central province of Qom.

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Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told AFP these were "the first confirmed cases of Indian variant in Iran".

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the virus variant, believed to be contributing to the catastrophe in India, has now been found in more than a dozen countries.

But the body has stopped short of saying it is more transmissible, more deadly or able to dodge vaccines.

Iran is battling the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus, including a "fourth wave" blamed by officials on a surge in trips in March during Persian New Year holidays.

"The fourth wave... is now under relative control," Namaki said, noting that "relative calm" is settling in some areas.

Most of Iran's cities are currently classified as "red" on the national virus risk scale, with only essential businesses open.

The virus has killed over 73,500 out of a total of nearly 2.6 million infections in Iran, according to official figures.

But some officials have admitted actual virus numbers are likely higher than official figures.

Like many nations, the Islamic republic is hoping vaccinations will help combat the health crisis.

But the rollout of its inoculation campaign, which started in early February, has progressed more slowly than authorities had wanted.

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