Iran imposes mandatory quarantine for travellers from Europe
Iran will require travellers from Europe to test negative on arrival and undergo self-quarantine for two weeks, a health official said on Saturday, as another announced that a domestically produced vaccine "completely neutralised" the highly infectious Covid-19 variant that first emerged in the UK.
Alireza Raisi, a spokesman for the national coronavirus task force, told state media that travellers arriving from Europe would have to hold negative test results and will be tested again, according to a Reuters report.
They will have to enter self-quarantine even if their test is negative, Raisi said.
He gave no specific date for when the change in measures would come into effect, replacing earlier guidelines in which European travellers were only required to test negative.
Travellers from other regions – including those from neighbouring countries – will need to have tested negative before entering Iran, the spokesman added.
The remarks came as another health official announced that a domestic vaccine candidate was effective against the highly contagious Covid-19 variant first identified in the UK.
"Test conducted on the blood plasma of three volunteers of the 'COVIran Barekat' vaccine completely neutralised the mutated coronavirus," Hassan Jalili, head of the team that produced the local vaccine, told state TV.
The vaccine - the first in the country to enter human trials – is produced by Shifa Pharmed, part of state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate known as Barekat.
There are no details about its coronavirus research, results of animal trials or previous work on any vaccines since its founding in 1995.
The first individuals to be injected with the vaccine in late December were two executives of Setad, a foundation controlled by the office of Iran's supreme leader that oversees Barekat.
Since then, 32 others have received one shot of the two-dose vaccine with all 56 of the initial candidates set to receive their first jab by late February, according to Aljazeera.
Officials have set an aggressive timeline for the vaccine's production, aiming for one to two million doses to hit the domestic market by late March, with over 10 million doses expected two months after.
COVIran Barekat is one among several locally manufactured vaccines which officials say have a chance of reaching human trials.
Iran has touted its domestic vaccine development despite tough US sanctions that affect its ability to import vaccines.
It has also approved use of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
Read more: Iran expects first batch of Russian vaccine by Feb 4
On Saturday, Iran's ambassador to Moscow said a contract for "the purchase and joint production" had been signed between the two countries. Kazem Jalili also said that the first batch of Moscow's shot would arrive in Iran by February 4, with two more expected by February 18 and 28.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has banned the use of vaccines made by the US and Britain, calling them "completely untrustworthy".
The Islamic republic is fighting the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of Covid-19 with more than 57,800 dead out of over 1.4 million cases.