Iran on Monday reported more than 37,000 new coronavirus infections, the highest number of cases the country has detected in a day since the pandemic began.
State TV said health workers registered 37,189 new Covid-19 cases since Sunday, surpassing the previous daily record of 34,951 infections reported on Tuesday. There were also 411 deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll in the pandemic to 91,407 — the highest in the Middle East.
The new surge has been fuelled by the contagious Delta variant, and the Iranian authorities say less than 40 per cent of the population follows measures such as wearing face masks and social distancing. Iranian health officials have regularly warned that hospitals in the capital, Tehran, and other major cities are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.
Also on Monday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the government to discuss the possibility of a two-week shutdown of the country, which Health Minister Saeed Namaki requested a day earlier.
In a letter to Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, Mr Namaki suggested the military could help enforce a lockdown. A new lockdown would come amid the first days of Ebrahim Raisi taking power as president.
The Iranian authorities have avoided imposing heavy-handed rules on a population badly equipped to bear them. The country is reeling from a series of other crises: tough US sanctions, global isolation, a heatwave, the worst blackouts in recent memory and continuing protests over water shortages in the south-west.
Less than four per cent of Iranians have been fully vaccinated. Many front-line medical workers have been vaccinated with Iran’s locally produced shots or the Chinese state-backed Sinopharm vaccine.
Iran’s government announced that its home-made vaccine provides 85 per cent protection from coronavirus, without disclosing data or details. Iran also imports Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, as well as the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot through the UN-backed Covax programme.