TEHRAN: President Hassan Rouhani expressed fears Saturday that Iran will be hit by a new wave of Covid-19 due to an outbreak of the Delta variant in the Middle East”s hardest-hit country. “It is feared that we are on the way to a fifth wave throughout the country,” Rouhani told a meeting of Iran”s anti-virus taskforce, warning the public to be careful as “the Delta variant” had entered the country from the south and southeast. Covid-19 has killed more than 84,000 people out of over 3.2 million infections in Iran, according to official figures that authorities admit do not account for all cases. Delta, first detected in India and now present in at least 85 countries, is the most contagious of any Covid-19 variant yet identified. The Islamic republic confirmed three cases of the Delta variant on May 5 in the central province of Qom. Iran”s health ministry has classified as “red” — the highest category on Iran”s coronavirus risk scale — the capital Tehran and nine other cities in Tehran province. The southern and southeastern provinces of Fars, Hormozgan, Kerman and Sistan-Baluchistan are also now classified as “red”. In red zones, all shops must stay shuttered except for those considered essential, including grocery stores and pharmacies. – Border controls – Authorities in Sistan-Baluchistan province said on Wednesday that they had closed travel across the border with Pakistan until further notice, although goods transport by road would be permitted. On Saturday, Alireza Raisi, the spokesman for the anti-virus taskforce, called for “strict controls of the country”s borders”, especially those on the eastern side of Iran. Strangled by US sanctions that have made it difficult to transfer money to foreign firms, Iran says it is struggling to import vaccines for its population of 83 million. Just over 4.4 million people have received a first dose of anti-Covid vaccine in Iran, while only 1.7 million have received the necessary two jabs, the health ministry says. “God willing, the situation will improve in terms of vaccinations from next week,” said Rouhani.