Rallies next week in Tehran to mark the annual Quds Day against Israel will involve Iranians driving in vehicles rather than marching through the streets to avoid spreading the coronavirus, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said.
The elite Revolutionary Guards would be in charge of organising the driving routes, Rouhani said on state television on Saturday, adding that those joining in could still chant slogans from their vehicles and wave flags.
Rallies to mark Quds Day, which uses the Arabic name for Jerusalem, are held in towns and cities across the country in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians. Typically, those marching chant “Death to Israel” and burn the Israeli flag.
The event was introduced in 1979 as Ayatollah Khomeini consolidated power following the Iranian revolution. Iran does not recognise Israel and considers it to be the source of many problems in the region.
Rouhani said Quds Day, held each year on the last Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan which falls on May 22, would go ahead as normal in 218 other towns and cities, where the coronavirus outbreak has been less severe than in the capital.
“The coronavirus danger is still there, but our situation is better than before,” he said. “We have crossed the main peak.”
Iran is one of the country’s hardest-hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. As of Saturday, Iran’s COVID-19 death toll stood at 6,937 with 118,392 diagnosed cases, the health ministry said.
The ministry spokesman said the death toll in the past 24 hours was 35, the lowest in the past 70 days, while the number of new cases was 1,757.
Shia Muslim shrines dotted around the country are due to reopen for six hours a day after Ramadan, which is based on the lunar calendar and is expected to end around May 23 this year.
Shrines would open for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, Rouhani said, although he said some areas of the shrines, such as narrow corridors, would stay shut.
The president said restaurants would also reopen after Ramadan and sports activities would resume without spectators. Universities, but not medical schools, would reopen on June 6, Rouhani added. Beauty salons and hairdressers have already reopened.