Iran sets new record for virus infections amid holiday surge

Iran has shattered its daily record for new coronavirus infections for the second consecutive day, with 20,954 new cases reported

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran shattered its daily record for new infections for the second consecutive day on Wednesday as cases soared to 20,954, a worrisome trend after more than a year of the country battling the worst outbreak in the Middle East.

There appears to be no respite in sight, as the country’s vaccine rollout lags, with only some 200,000 vaccine doses administered in the country of 84 million, according to the World Health Organization. COVAX, an international collaboration to deliver the vaccine equitably across the world, delivered its first shipment to Iran on Monday from the Netherlands containing 700,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki ordered all parks, restaurants, bakeries, beauty salons, malls and bookstores closed on Wednesday in Tehran, the capital, and the other 250 cities and towns declared to be so-called “red zones,” which have the most severe restrictions in place and the highest virus positivity rate. Over 85% of the country now has the “red” or “orange” infection status, authorities said.

Earlier this week, Namaki warned of a further surge and said authorities had “lost control” over what he called “the rebellious COVID-19 dragon.” Wednesday’s infection count easily surpassed the previous record set Tuesday of 17,430 infections, marking the worst pandemic days since peaks reached over four months ago.

Wednesday’s case count brought the total number of infected in the outbreak to over 1.9 million, according to official figures. The health ministry reported 193 new virus deaths over the last 24 hours, raising the country’s death toll to 63,699 — the highest toll in the region.

Earlier this year, the country kicked off its coronavirus inoculation campaign, administering a limited number of Russian Sputnik V vaccines to medical workers.

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Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.

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