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Rouhani warns Iran could see worst of COVID if Indian variant hits

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Shops in Tehran’s grand bazaar are closed because of a renewed surge in coronavirus cases in the Iranian capital.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for increased restrictions on travel and movement as he warns the country could be hit by the worst of the coronavirus crisis with the arrival of the Indian variant of the virus.

Rouhani said on Saturday that Iran should beef up checks and controls at eastern borders to ensure the Indian variant of the coronavirus would not cause massive problems for people in the country.

“Today we are facing another threat and that is the Indian virus which is worse than the English one, is worse than the Brazilian and South African ones ... if this arrives in the country we will have a big problem,” he told members of a national taskforce formed to fight the coronavirus

The Iranian president said decrees will be issued on the case to various government departments following an emergency meeting planned for later on Saturday.

The Iranian civil aviation authority announced later that all flights to and from India and Pakistan will stop operating as of midnight Sunday.

It said Iranian airports will also stop processing connection flights transiting to Iran through India and Pakistan.

Iranian health minister Saeid Namaki had demanded an immediate halt to all travels involving destinations in India and Pakistan.

In a letter addressed to the interior ministry earlier on Saturday, Namaki described the Indian variant of coronavireus as a “very dangerous mutation” of the virus.

Iran has seen an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on Saturday that the number of hospitalizations because of the disease had increased by 17 percent in the working week to Friday compared to the previous week. She said the number of deaths had risen by 48 percent over the same period.

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