An Iranian health official said Sunday it has detected its first case of infection by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in the country.

Director of Iran’s Center for Disease Control Mohammad Mehdi Gouya told state TV that the first case was verified and there might be two other possible cases whose tests are yet to be confirmed. He added that the first case was a traveler who had returned from the United Arab Emirates.

The new variant has been spreading fast around the globe less than a month after scientists warned the World Health Organization of the new threat.

Iran has reportedly vaccinated about 60 percent of its 84-million population with two doses of Covid vaccines, mainly the Chinese-made Sinopharm while the Russian Sputnik-V and the British-Swedish AstraZeneca have also been used.

Although fatal cases have been decreasing during the past few weeks due to vaccination, the Omicron may push the death rate to a new peak in the upcoming cold winter months. A new study has indicated that Sinopharm and Sputnik vaccines are weaker against Omicron.

With over 130,000 officially announced deaths, Iran has the worst fatality rate among the countries of the Middle East, mostly because the attempts in lockdowns were haphazardly managed and vaccination was delayed due to a ban by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in January against purchasing British and American vaccines.

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