Iran to reopen religious, cultural sites, says President Hassan Rouhani
Holy shrines -- some of which became focal points of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran -- will reopen from Monday, said President Hassan Rouhani on state television.
Iran on Saturday moved to open businesses, religious and cultural sites as it eases restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic even as the death toll is increasing. Museums and historical sites will be reopening on Sunday to coincide with the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations that end the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Holy shrines -- some of which became focal points of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran -- will reopen Monday, President Hassan Rouhani said on state television.
According to the country's Health Ministry figures, more than than 7,000 have so far died from the pandemic in Iran and more than 130,000 have been infected. But a report by Parliament's research centre has suggested that the actual tally of infections and deaths in Iran might be almost twice that announced by the ministry.
Rouhani had said last week that the shrines would open for three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon. Some areas of the shrines such as narrow corridors will stay shut.
All workers in the country will return to work next Saturday. "We can say we have passed the three stages regarding the coronavirus," Rouhani said.
The fourth phase is containment in 10 of Iran's 31 provinces, where the situation is better and screening will intensify while infected patients will be separated from the rest of the population.
Earlier this week, around 10,000 health workers tested COVID-19 positive in Iran, the semi-official ILNA news agency had reported.
On Thursday, Health Minister Saeed Namaki appealed to Iranians to avoid travelling during the Eid al-Fitr religious holiday to avoid the risk of a new surge of coronavirus infections.
"I am urging you not to travel during the Eid. Definitely, such trips mean new cases of infection...People should not travel to and from those high-risk red areas," Namaki was quoted by state television as saying.
"Some 90% of the population in many areas has not yet contracted the disease. In the case of a new outbreak, it will be very difficult for me and my colleagues to control it."
However, worried that measures to limit public activities could wreck an economy which has already been battered by US sanctions, the government has been easing most restrictions on normal life in late April.
The President said last week that restaurants would reopen after Ramadan and sports activities would resume without spectators. Universities, but not medical schools, will reopen on June 6.
Rouhani said on Saturday that 88 per cent of the fatalities from COVID-19 in Iran were victims with underlying illnesses.