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AFP
April 9, 2021

Iran Covid cases hit two million in ‘meteoric’ rise

World

AFP
April 9, 2021

TEHRAN: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Iran passed the two-million mark on Thursday, while the daily caseload set a new record high in what a health official warned amounted to a "meteoric" spike.

As the Islamic republic reached the grim milestone, some health experts called for a lockdown of the capital Tehran to contain the country’s fourth Covid-19 wave.

Iran is battling the Middle East’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, and officials have blamed the latest surge on trips made during last month’s Persian New Year holidays. Over the past 24 hours, the country officially recorded 22,586 new cases of infection, reaching a new high, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said.

This marks an increase of more than 1,600 cases over the previous record, set just the day before. Iran also recorded an additional 185 coronavirus-related deaths, Lari said, bringing the total to 63,884.

Daily fatalities and infections had remained relatively stable below the 100 and 7,000 mark in January, rising only slightly until a sharp increase in late March. Iran’s conservative and reformist press on Thursday blasted President Hassan Rouhani’s government for allowing holiday travel in the face of an expected new wave. It came after a top official said some in the national virus taskforce had opposed a travel ban before the holidays.

"Some prevented us from using the (new year holidays) as a golden opportunity to put out the coronavirus fire," the deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, said on Wednesday. He described the Covid infection rate as "meteoric" and said it was now "highly probable" that Iran would suffer 600 deaths a day.

Some officials, including Health Minister Saeed Namaki, have admitted actual virus numbers are likely higher than official figures. Payam Tabresi, a health expert at Tehran’s Masih Daneshvari hospital, told the Ebtekar daily that locking down the capital for "at least two weeks" was the "only way". "The situation is bad," Tabresi said. "One really cannot imagine it being any worse."

Meanwhile, more than 700 million people across India were facing coronavirus vaccine shortages on Thursday, local media reported, as infection numbers hit yet another daily record.

Case numbers had eased in India but a second wave of the virus has since returned with a vengeance, with more than 126,000 new infections recorded in the past 24 hours, a new record.

Several regions have tightened curbs on activity while Maharashtra, the current epicentre of India’s epidemic and home to megacity Mumbai, is set to enter a lockdown at the weekend.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his second shot on Thursday, tweeting that vaccines are "among the few ways we have to defeat the virus". He urged others to follow his lead by getting vaccinated. India’s vast vaccination programme is reportedly experiencing problems having administered 87 million shots so far in a population of 1.3 billion people.