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Coronavirus Outbreak

Yalda Markets and Parties in the Crosshairs Amid Omicron Fears in Iran

December 17, 2021
2 min read
Yalda Markets and Parties in the Crosshairs Amid Omicron Fears in Iran

Health authorities in Iran have ramped up inspections of Yalda night markets ahead of the winter festivities. Plainclothes and uniformed patrols will be prowling stalls selling fruit and nuts ahead of the traditional winter solstice celebrations on Tuesday, December 21.

It comes as concerns are growing about the potential spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus in Iran, where weak testing capacity could mean it has already gone undetected.

“The supervision of the Yalda night markets in the areas of nuts, dried fruits and confections has been intensified,'' Bahman Khodadadian , an environmental health official based at Kermanshah University, told Mehr News Agency.

In the week leading up to Yalda, he said, 100 environmental officials and four special patrols would be monitoring some 120 fruit and nut stores and 360 confectioners in the province. He also warned people against buying “poor-quality” products.

Morteza Amini, the director-general of prisons in Gilan, said surveillance of Yalda markets in his province would be carried out by undercover detectives and officers. “If there is a recurrence of violations, they will be dealt with,” he added, asking the public to report any violations by calling the local authority. 

Yalda is Iranians’ way of marking the longest and darkest night of the year. Friends and family typically gather together together to eat, drink and recite poetry. This year it comes against a backdrop of fears about a resurgence of Covid-19.

New infections in Iran currently stand at an official 2,500 a day, six percent of the peak, with fewer than 100 Covid-19 deaths being recorded each day. But these figures are likely to be well shy of the real totals due to low testing. The festivities this year also fall at a time when Tehran has persisted in reopening schools, universities and entertainment venues despite warnings by medical professionals.

In a statement published by Tasnim News Agency on Thursday, the National Coronavirus Taskforce warned people to avoid gatherings or setting up ‘Yalda circles’ but stopped short of imposing new restrictions.

“Corona is still flying in different parts of the world,” it read, “and causes a lot of pain. Our country is no exception to this, despite significant decreases in the relevant statistics, and our compatriots must continue to observe health protocols.” It called again on Iranian citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

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