The health ministry reported Iran's first three deaths from the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday as the number of infections increased.
"The number of patients with Omicron in the country has reached 1,162 and ... one death has been reported due to Omicron in each of the cities of Tabriz, Yazd and Shahrekord, and one critically ill patient is hospitalized in Ahvaz," ministry spokesman Mohammad Hashemi told state broadcaster IRIB.
Iran this week lifted restrictions on land travel to and from neighboring countries and some European states while the impact of the new variant remained unclear. Tehran maintained a ban on arrivals from Britain, France and eight countries in Southern Africa over Omicron fears, local media reported.
Iran, the second country in the world after China that experienced the pandemic and its epicenter in the Middle East, has suffered 132,044 deaths in five waves of COVID-19 infections since February 2020. Health experts and some politicians believe that the official numbers are too low and some allege a cover-up.
Deaths have fallen in recent months and stood at 18 on Saturday, a 22-month low, after Iran expanded vaccination in August following a slow start.
More than 53 million of Iran's population of about 85 million have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine, and 12.2 million have received three doses.