Tehran, Iran – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has announced new restrictions across the country in a bid to halt a surge in the number of coronavirus infections and related deaths.
The curbs announced on Saturday during a televised meeting of the national coronavirus task force will affect 46 counties spread out across 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces.
Starting on Wednesday, cinemas, cafes, gyms and pools in those counties will remain shut for 10 days. Events and gatherings will also be suspended while educational facilities will move classes online.
All of the provinces that will be hit with new restrictions are still classified as red in a colour-coded scale denoting the severity of outbreaks.
On Saturday, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari announced 386 new deaths, bringing the total close to 35,000 since the first coronavirus cases were announced in February. Another 7,820 new infections were confirmed, which means 612,772 coronavirus cases have been officially identified so far.
The highest single-day death toll was recorded on October 28 when 415 patients died. A highest single-day infection figure of 8,293 was recorded a day later.
The number of daily COVID-19 infections in Iran has more than quadrupled in less than two months, according to data released by the health ministry.
On October 23, the government imposed new restrictions on the capital, Tehran.
All state organisations in Tehran were ordered to operate with 50 percent workforce at the premises from October 26 while allowing government workers to come in every alternate day for almost a month.
This was in addition to a mandatory city-wide mask rule and fines for violators – both citizens and business owners – that is still in place.
On Saturday, members of Parliament representing Tehran lodged a formal request with the national coronavirus task force to shut down the capital for two weeks to curb the spread of the virus.
“The government has implemented a number of health protocols to control the coronavirus, but they are not enough, so the council of Tehran representatives has proposed a two-week shutdown,” Tehran member of Parliament Nezamoldin Mousavi told Tasnim news.
Earlier this month, Tehran city council chief Mohsen Hashemi had also called for a two-week complete shutdown of the metropolis.
Tehran police chief Hossein Rahimi said last week “there are no plans to [completely] shut down Tehran” but said police officers will act more decisively in imposing fines against violators.
On October 23, restrictions were also imposed on 43 high-risk counties that were ordered to shut down all non-essential businesses from October 26 for a week. Those restrictions were extended for another week on Saturday.
Last week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held a rare face-to-face meeting with members of the national coronavirus task force.
Among other things, he ordered the formation of an “operational headquarters” to monitor implementation of guidelines as implementation has been patchy across the country.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has since been mandated by the president to lead the headquarters.
On Saturday, Rouhani admitted there have been lags and challenges in implementing approved restrictions, but said the situation will improve after the headquarters was formed.