Health minister: Iran marks first day without COVID deaths

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s health minister said Thursday the country has marked its first day after more than two years without a single COVID-19 death, lauding this as a significant milestone for a nation that long had the highest number of coronavirus cases in the Middle East.

The ministry reported 175 new cases over the past day, bringing Iran’s number of confirmed cases during the pandemic to more than 7,230,000. Iran’s officially registered death toll stands at 141,318.

“Iran has experienced the first day without a coronavirus death while America and Europe still have high casualty rates,” tweeted Health Minister Bahram Einollahi.

At its peak in the pandemic, in August 2021, Iran registered more than 50,000 new cases a day. That same month also marked the highest daily number of fatalities, 709 deaths a day.

Earlier this year, in February, authorities said the aggressive omicron variant was dominant in Iran and urged hospitals to prepare for a new wave of infections and hospitalizations.

Like many middle-income countries, Iran has relied on Sinopharm, the state-backed Chinese vaccine. The country also offers citizens an array of other shots to choose from — Oxford-AstraZeneca, Russia’s Sputnik V, Indian firm Bharat’s Covaxin, as well as its homegrown COVIran Barekat shot.

With anti-American hostility simmering, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had banned the import of Western shots. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech remain forbidden.

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