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Iran imposes 2-week travel ban from neighbors to contain Omicron

File photo shows passengers being checked for coronavirus at Parvizkhan crossing on the western Iranian border with Iraq.

Iran has started imposing a two-week travel ban from neighbors as the country struggles to prevent a surge in potential infections related to the Omicron variant of the coronavius.

Spokesman of Iran’s customs office said on Saturday that all land borders will remain closed to passenger travel for 15 days starting December 25 considering a decree issued by Iran’s National Headquarters for Battling Coronavirus (NHBC).

Rouhollah Latifi said that restrictions will not apply to passengers travelling for health, study or trade purposes or people having permanent residency permits, adding that freight travel through land borders will continue in the meantime.

The official denied reports published in some Turkish media outlets suggesting that Iran has imposed the new bans to restrict the flow of Iranian passengers to Turkey during the Christmas festive season.

“Definitely this news is not true and the restrictions have only been considered to prevent the spread of Omicron virus into the country,” said Latifi.

The new travel bans come as Iran struggles to prevent a surge in Omicron variant infections amid efforts by the government to get more people vaccinated against the disease.

Iran’s health minister Bahram Einollahi said on Saturday that the rapid spread of Omicron may pose serious threats to the country although he insisted that authorities had identified few cases infected with the variant.  

Einollahi said that Iran has two “golden weeks” to expand booster vaccination coverage to more people in order to prevent a potential explosion in the number of infections with Omicron in early January.

Health ministry figures published on Saturday showed that booster vaccine shots delivered across Iran had reached nearly 5.5 million doses.

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