Iran extends restrictions as COVID-19 death toll passes 50,000

Partial shutdowns, curfews and intra-city travel restrictions extended for regions across Iran.

On Thursday, Iran said it exceeded one million coronavirus cases [Atta Kenare/AFP]

Tehran, Iran – The government has extended many coronavirus-related restrictions across Iran as its COVID-19 death toll went past 50,000 on Saturday.

Iran, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, is battling its third wave of the epidemic.

On Thursday, it surpassed one million coronavirus cases.

Cities across the country, including the capital Tehran, have just emerged from two-week partial shutdowns.

All but essential services were shut down in its cities, depending on the severity levels, and attendance at government offices was reduced.

Officials regularly update a colour-coded list of cities and counties based on the number of confirmed COVID-19 hospitalisations, classifying them from white, denoting “no danger”, to red, which shows the highest level of alarm.

As announced on Saturday, partial shutdowns will continue in regions still classified as “red”.

A night-time curfew has also been extended to 278 cities that are currently classified as “orange”, denoting regions that have improved.

A mandatory mask rule will continue to be enforced across the country.

According to Alireza Raisi, a spokesman of the national coronavirus task force, 6,400 people with coronavirus have also been barred from getting on public transport.

‘Tehran on the brink’

According to authorities, the two-week shutdown improved Tehran’s status to “orange” after months of being classified as “red”.

On Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani warned that Tehran was “on the brink” of slipping back and if people and authorities were not extremely vigilant, the metropolis could regress to pre-shutdown conditions.

A report by the state broadcaster on Saturday showed metro stations and buses in Tehran were once again packed as businesses reopened.

“Naturally, it’s more crowded again, people have to go to work,” one man, who was inside a packed bus, said.

According to Rouhani, while most parts of Iran – including Tehran – were experiencing downward trajectories, cases were rising in seven areas and required immediate attention.

“We must continue being careful, even if a vaccine arrives,” said Rouhani.

Iran experienced its highest daily infection rate of 14,051 on November 27 while the highest single-day death toll of 486 was registered on November 16.

Source: Al Jazeera