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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's health ministry reported the country's first three deaths from the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday.
"The number of patients with Omicron in the country has reached 1,162 and ... one death has been reported due to Omicron in each of the cities of Tabriz, Yazd and Shahrekord, and one critically ill patient is hospitalised in Ahvaz," ministry spokesman Mohammad Hashemi told state broadcaster IRIB.
Iran this week lifted restrictions on land travel to and from neighbouring countries and some European states but maintained a ban on arrivals from Britain, France and eight countries in Southern Africa over Omicron fears, Iranian media reported.
Iran, the pandemic's epicentre in the Middle East, has suffered 132,044 deaths in five waves of COVID-19 infections since February 2020. Deaths have fallen in recent months and stood at 18 on Saturday, a 22-month low, according the state television.
More than 53 million of Iran's population of about 85 million have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine, and 12.2 million have received three doses.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Editing by Timothy Heritage)