DUBAI – Iran on Tuesday reported a record daily 709 deaths from COVID-19 as the worst-hit country in the Middle East faced a fifth surge in infections led by the highly contagious Delta variant.
The health ministry said the total number of cases had reached 4.75 million with 40,623 new infections over the past 24 hours. Total fatalities rose to 103,357, state TV reported.
Authorities imposed a two-week road travel ban between cities in the Islamic Republic until Aug. 27, except for essential vehicles. Non-essential businesses and public offices were allowed to reopen on Sunday after a week of mandatory shutdown to help limit the spread of coronavirus infections.
The government has not yet announced whether or not new restrictions will be imposed soon.
Health authorities have warned that daily deaths might reach 800 in coming weeks if Iranians fail to respect health precautions.
Social media users have criticised the government for being slow to vaccinate people – only about 6.5 million of the 83 million population are fully inoculated. Officials have blamed U.S. sanctions and delays in importing vaccines.
Food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are exempt from U.S. sanctions reimposed on Tehran in 2018 after President Donald Trump walked away from a 2015 deal between world powers and Iran over its nuclear programme.
But the U.S. measures, which target sectors including oil and financial activities, have deterred some foreign banks from processing financial transactions with Iran. Tehran says this has frequently disrupted efforts to import essential medicines and other humanitarian items.