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Revolutionary Guard members prepare to take part in disinfecting Tehran, Iran. Photo: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images

Iran on Saturday began enforcing tightened COVID restrictions nationwide as the number of coronavirus cases surged.

Driving the news: The country on Friday recorded 22,478 coronavirus cases, its highest single-day total, according to Al Jazeera. Health officials confirmed more than 19,660 cases on Saturday, as the surge in new infections follows last month's Iranian holiday celebrations.

  • President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised address on Saturday that the primary driver of the fourth wave is the more contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in the U.K., per Al Jazeera.
  • He also attributed the rise in infections to shopping activity before Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, and other holiday celebrations.

Details: Regions across Iran face fresh restrictions to varying degrees depending on how they're classified in the country's color-coded system, Al Jazeera reported.

  • In Tehran and 250 other cities classified as "red-zones," which have the highest positivity rates, most non-essential services must close.
  • Travel throughout "red-zone" areas is prohibited, and a curfew for private vehicles is in place between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.
  • The new restrictions are expected to last at least 10 days.

Yes, but: "Authorities have done little to enforce lockdown restrictions and originally resisted a nationwide lockdown to salvage an economy already devastated by tough U.S. sanctions," AP noted.

The big picture: Iran has experienced one of worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the Middle East.

  • Fewer than 320,000 vaccine doses had been administered in the country of about 83 million as of April 5, according to the World Health Organization.
  • The country has recorded more than 2 million COVID-19 cases and 64,200 deaths since the pandemic began, semi-official Fars News Agency reported, quoting health officials.

Go deeper

Apr 10, 2021 - Health

WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak

Mourners watch as workers wearing protective equipment bury the casket of a Covid-19 victim at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Photo: Victor Moriyama/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Brazil is facing a "raging inferno of an outbreak," Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization, warned Friday as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths across the country soars.

Driving the news: The surge, driven in part by relaxed mitigation measures and a more contagious local variant, has overwhelmed the country's health system. Brazil this week confirmed more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Apr 10, 2021 - World

Iran says it's testing new advanced nuclear centrifuge

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking in Tehran on April 10. Photo: Iran Presidency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iran said Saturday it's testing a new and advanced nuclear centrifuge to more effectively enrich uranium, AP reports.

Why it matters: The announcement by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani comes as Tehran and Washington hold indirect talks in an attempt to bring the U.S. back into the 2015 nuclear deal.

Federal court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for health workers in 10 states

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant following a meeting with his COVID-19 response team. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal court in Missouri has blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally-funded facilities in 10 states.

Why it matters: Monday's decision is the first victory for opponents of the rule, which requires health care workers to get vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. The case is one of four lawsuits challenging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) rule and argues that the mandate will exacerbate staffing shortages.