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EghtesadOnline: The Health Ministry placed all medical centers on high alert as part of efforts to contain an expected sixth wave of the pandemic fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“The Health Ministry gave health centers a notice two weeks ago to prepare for more hospitalizations should the numbers rise,” Hamid Reza Jamaati, secretary for the national Covid-19 science committee, was quoted as saying by ISNA.

Starting Tuesday, the ministry also launched the vaccination of children between the ages of nine to 12 to curb transmission rates. 

The age group will be administered two shots of either the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine or the Pastu Covac vaccine produced in collaboration with Cuba. 

It has been over a month since the Omicron variant was first detected in the capital Tehran. Two weeks later, health officials announced that community transmission of the variant had begun. 

So far 3,466 patients have tested positive for the Omicron variant throughout Iran and ten people have died from it, spokesman for the Health Ministry, Mohammad Hashemi, tweeted on Tuesday.  

Jamaati noted that the number of patients visiting hospitals with Covid-19 related complaints had doubled, “This shows that the country is on the verge of the sixth peak.”

He urged officials to boost vaccine rollout to stem the spread of Omicron and give out booster shots to more people. 

Only 17% of Iran’s population of 85 million people have been given a third dose. Anyone over the age of 18 is eligible to get the booster shot at immunization centers.


Return of Restrictions Possible 

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi warned on Tuesday that Covid-19 restrictions will be reinstated if citizens refuse to follow safety rules and cause a spike in Omicron cases. 

“[Return of restrictions] is definitely happening if the number of cities color-coded as orange and red increases,” Vahidi said. 

Iran rolled back on confinement measures some two months ago when the fifth wave, driven by the Delta variant, abated and all its cities were placed in blue and yellow categories standing for low-risk zones. 

Earlier this week, the Health Ministry color-coded one city located in central Iran as orange, sparking fears that the now dominant Omicron variant was spreading relentlessly throughout the country.

The tally of daily coronavirus cases climbed to 9,300 on Tuesday, up by 21% compared to a day earlier.


Kids vaccination