Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday expressed his fear that the country could be affected by a new wave of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) due to an epidemic of the Delta variant. Iran has reported more than 3.2 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 84,000 related deaths, according to official figures, overwhelming the health infrastructure of the Islamic Republic.

“There is concern that we are on the way to a fifth wave across the country,” Rouhani said at a meeting of Iran’s anti-virus task force.

Iran’s health ministry has classified the capital and nine other cities in Tehran province as “red,” the highest category on the country’s coronavirus risk scale. The southern and southeastern provinces of Fars, Hormozgan, Kerman and Sistan-Balochistan were also classified as “red”.

The outgoing president has warned the public to be cautious as “the Delta variant has spread” in the southern provinces. According to the Ministry of Health, only 1.7 million people in Iran have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, leaving the country highly vulnerable to new waves of coronaviruses driven by more deadly and transmissible variants.

“God willing, the situation will improve in terms of vaccinations from next week,” Rouhani said.

Iran is administering two locally produced vaccines under an emergency use authorization, as the country’s vaccine purchases have been affected by sanctions imposed by the United States. US sanctions have made it difficult for Iran, which struggles to import vaccines for its people, to transfer money to foreign companies.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday said the world is going through a “very dangerous time” as the Delta variant continues to evolve and mutate. The highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, is spreading rapidly in many countries, and the WHO has warned of scenes of hospitals overflowing with patients in countries with low vaccination coverage.

(With contributions from the agency)

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