After millions of people traveled during the Persian New Year holidays, ran is facing a fourth big wave of COVID-19 infections.
The country’s health ministry has reported that two of Iran’s 32 provinces – Alborz, near the capital Tehran, and Ilam, in the west – are experiencing a fourth wave. Seven more, like Tehran, are on the verge of collapse, according to the study.
“If we don’t have the necessary considerations, we might face this wave in other provinces as well. So we need to be careful,” President Hassan Rouhani said during a televised session of the national anti-coronavirus task force on Saturday.
Since the first case was identified in February of last year, Iran has reported over 1.9 million coronavirus cases. In what is the region’s worst COVID-19 death toll, nearly 63,000 people have died.
The revival in cases comes two weeks after Nowruz, the Iranian new year, on March 20, and is expected to be followed by an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, according to health officials.
Nowruz is accompanied by long holidays during which Iranians fly, often to scenic provinces near the Caspian Sea in the north, to see family and friends.
Hundreds of cities around the country that were not listed as “red” or “orange” on a color-coded scale denoting the seriousness of outbreaks were formally permitted to visit this year, despite health officials’ opposition.
Public transportation is not forbidden, and fines for driving to prohibited cities in private cars are not serious, so some travelers consider them part of their travel expenses.
On Saturday, Alireza Raeisi, a spokesman for the national anti-coronavirus task force, said that road travel during Nowruz was up 100 percent from the previous year.
Shortly before Nowruz, Roads Minister Mohammad Eslami estimated that 33 million people will fly over the holidays, with at least 7.8 million using public transportation to get around.
At least 15,000 people who knew they were infected with COVID-19 after testing positive at registered labs traveled throughout Nowruz, according to the health ministry.
Official data also shows that 47 cities have been reclassified as “red,” while 126 have been reclassified as “orange.”
A further 247 are classified as “yellow,” with only 14 classified as “blue,” which have the lowest transmission rates.
With a population of over 80 million people, Iran has only given out about 161,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine to people in disadvantaged communities, according to the most recent figures released by officials last week.
Iran anticipates additional doses from Russia, China, and India, while three local vaccine candidates are currently undergoing clinical trials and are expected to enter mass production in the coming months.