Dec. 31 – Iran banned travelers from Britain, Denmark and France this week, in an effort to stem the spread of Coronavirus variant Omicron, a highly transmissible strain of the virus.

Iran remains the worst-affected country in the Middle East by the pandemic, and has imposed its latest ban for 15 days as part of new measures to curb COVID inside the country.

Iran has reported 14 confirmed cases of Omicron, though the number may be higher as testing kits in the country remain in short supply and the virus is likely to spread rapidly in the coming weeks.

Iranian officials placed a ban on cryptocurrency mining centres, the second ban in a year, to prevent nationwide electricity blackouts.

The shutdown of mining centres across the country has been ordered to protect power plants from being overstrained and is expected to run until March 6, freeing up 209 megawatts of power for household use.

Additional measures enabled to prevent blackouts included reduced street lighting and the regulation of electricity consumption in office blocks.

And the head of Iran’s soccer association has defended former national team captain Mehdi Mahdavikia following criticism by hardline conservatives and government media outlets for wearing a jersey with an Israeli flag.

Mahdavikia wore the jersey while playing a friendly match on Dec. 17 which was coached by an Israeli. The player’s jersey featured the flags of all FIFA member countries including Israel.

Hassan Kamranifar, the current Secretary General of the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI), defended Mahdavikia in a statement published on Dec. 29, and called him “one of the greats of Iranian football” and expressed gratitude for his decision to leave Germany where he lives, to lead Iran’s national team with limited facilities and low pay.

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