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Iran President Says His Proposed Cabinet Will Focus On Coronavirus, Economy

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

Recently elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has said his government will place a priority on fighting COVID-19.

"The government's first priority is controlling the coronavirus, improving the health situation, and widespread vaccination," Raisi said on August 21 as parliament began debating the conservative leader's male-only cabinet choices.

"The economy and the livelihood situation is the second" priority, he said.

Infection and death rates owing to the coronavirus pandemic have hit record highs in Iran this month, with more than 4.5 million cases and more than 100,000 fatalities.

Officials have blamed the more contagious Delta variant for the country's "fifth wave" of coronavirus infections.

Raisi has tapped Bahram Eynollahi to be his health minister, describing the 63-year-old optometrist as "a figure who can rally forces in the fight against coronavirus."

Eynollahi has been identified as a signatory to a January open letter that warned against importing vaccines made by the United States, Britain, and France, alleging they could cause "unknown and irreversible complications."

More than 16.3 million people out of the country's 83 million inhabitants have been given a first vaccine dose, but only 5.4 million have received the second, the Health Ministry said on August 20.

Based on reporting by AFP