Iran says it has closed all land and sea borders in the southwestern Khuzestan province to reduce the expected spread of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
Deputy Governor-General of Khuzestan, Valiollah Hayati, who oversees the provincial Covid taskforce, announced the restrictions on Saturday, saying the 15-day mandate starts immediately.
He then exempted holders of valid residence permits, student and work visas, students of seminaries and universities, as well investors and medical visas, adding that “only people from these seven groups” are allowed to cross the borders with their vaccine cards and a negative PCR test. Iraq borders Iran in the southwest.
Iran confirmed the first Omicron case on Sunday, December 19, and began preparations to deal with the new virus.
An official earlier in the week in Tehran said hospitals and clinics are on alert and are expanding emergency room services in anticipation of more infections with Omicron, noting that its impact will be felt next week.
Iran has reportedly vaccinated about 60 percent of its 84-million population with two doses of Covid vaccines, mainly the Chinese-made Sinopharm and the Russian Sputnik-V.
Although fatal cases have been decreasing during the past few weeks due to vaccination, a new study has indicated that Sinopharm and Sputnik vaccines are weaker against Omicron.