Tehran (AFP) – Iran said on Sunday that it would allow “low-risk economic activity” to resume from April 11, as daily coronavirus infection rates slowed for a fifth consecutive day.
“Resuming these activities does not mean that we have abandoned the principle of staying at home,” said President Hassan Rouhani at a meeting of the Iranian Anti-Coronavirus Task Force.
The president, whose country has been hit by US economic sanctions, did not specify what would qualify as “low-risk” activities, but said bans on schools and large gatherings would remain.
A “gradual” return of “low-risk” economic activity will be allowed in the provinces next Saturday and in Tehran from April 18, Rouhani said.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed 151 more deaths in Iran in the past 24 hours and increased the death toll of the Islamic Republic to 3,603, Ministry of Health spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Sunday at his daily press conference.
He also reported 2,483 new cases of COVID-19 infection, the fifth consecutive day of declining numbers, compared to a record 3,111 infections on March 31.
Iran, the Middle East country worst hit by the Chinese pandemic, reported 58,226 infections, a number some foreign experts consider to be underestimated.
After refusing to block or quarantine, Iran imposed an intercity travel ban at the end of last month.
After a two-week holiday for the Persian New Year, Saturday should have meant a return to regular activity in Iran.
In his briefing, Jahanpour criticized “those who think that the situation is normal now that the holidays are over because it is not normal”.
While some people in Tehran told AFP they were reassured by the government’s response, others remained fearful.
“A lot of people have been on the street in the past two days. It’s terrifying,” a housewife, Zohreh, told AFP.
But Zahra Zanjani, another housewife, said she believed the situation was under control.
“People are very respectful of” the instructions given by the authorities, “and are very careful,” she said.
A retiree named Amir was worried about the economic impact of the pandemic.
“People still have expenses to pay,” he said.
“You can’t stay at home. The government has to support you financially.”
In Isfahan, Iran’s third largest city and tourism capital, 35-year-old teacher Samira said a large number of people are ignoring the advice to stay at home.
“I passed two parks and saw 25 to 30 people each,” she said.
“Public gardens should remain closed.”