Iran shuts Tehran government offices, banks as COVID-19 spreads

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Iran on Monday announced strict curbs in the capital Tehran and a nearby province to stem the spread of COVID-19, as daily infections drew close to an all-time high.

President Hassan Rouhani had earlier this month warned of a “fifth wave” because of an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant in the Middle East’s hardest-hit country.

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Government offices and banks in Tehran and Alborz provinces are set to close from 6 pm (1330 GMT) until next Monday morning, the national virus taskforce said in a statement.

The restrictions also include a ban on car travel to and from the two provinces, and a new shutdown of high-risk businesses across Iran’s worst-hit areas.

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The new measures coincide with the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday celebrated in the Islamic republic on Wednesday.

COVID-19 has killed more than 87,370 people from upwards of 3.5 million infections in Iran, according to official figures that the authorities admit do not account for all cases.

In the past 24 hours, the country officially recorded 25,441 new cases, close to the record 25,582 reached on April 14.

Iran also registered 213 fatalities, with 92 recorded in Tehran, the province’s taskforce chief Alireza Zali told state television.

The closure of government facilities and banks in the country’s bureaucratic and business hub is a first since the pandemic began.

Iran has avoided imposing a full lockdown on the population, and instead resorted to piecemeal measures such as temporary travel bans and business closures.

Rouhani on Saturday warned of “very low” observation of health protocols, and said Iran faces another jump in infections “across almost all the country.”

Addressing the virus taskforce, he said it was due to the June presidential election, “unnecessary” travel and the flouting of health protocols.

Strangled by US sanctions that have made it difficult to transfer money to foreign firms, Iran says it is struggling to import vaccines for its population of 83 million.

Just over 6.1 million people have received a first dose of anti-Covid vaccine, while only 2.2 million have received the necessary two jabs, according to the health ministry.

The authorities have approved the emergency use of two locally produced vaccines, with the only mass-produced one – COVIran Barekat – still in short supply.

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