Iran’s Rouhani launches strict new measures to try to curb coronavirus

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Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols will be shut for a week, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday as he launched new measures to try to curb the coronavirus.

Iran has been battling the spread of the coronavirus since it reported its first cases in late February, with the total number of cases hitting 237,878 on Saturday and a further 148 deaths bringing the country’s toll to 11,408, Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said on state television.

On Friday, Lari had reported 154 deaths.

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Wearing masks becomes mandatory from Sunday in covered public places, Rouhani said on state television after tougher curbs were imposed in cities and towns in five provinces where the outbreak is rising after an easing of lockdowns from mid-April.

But face masks are already mandatory on public transport in Iran and the Tehran city council acknowledges that the rule is still widely flouted on the bus and metro services it runs.

Addressing the committee in charge of Iran’s efforts to stem its virus outbreak -- the deadliest in the Middle East -- Rouhani said that the new order “requires some guarantee that it will be respected.”

“Government employees should not serve people who do not wear masks and employees who do not wear them should be considered absentees and sent home,” said Rouhani.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (L), and Minister of Health Saeed Namaki, wearing face masks as they attend a cabinet session in the capital Tehran. (AFP)
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (L), and Minister of Health Saeed Namaki, wearing face masks as they attend a cabinet session in the capital Tehran. (AFP)

And a government website published photos of Rouhani, who is rarely seen wearing a mask, with a face covering.

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Those infected have a “religious duty” to notify others, Rouhani said, adding: “Keeping your infection a secret violates the rights of other people”.

The government has been trying to convince a reluctant public to accept masks and a week-long campaign by state television has been warning viewers that “Corona is not a joke”.

One TV presenter at the end of every newscast puts on her mask and says: “There is no one in my immediate three meters, but I wear a mask outside the studio. You, too, wear one.”

State media reported on Saturday that 19 Iranian football players from the national Esteghlal and Foolad Khuzestan clubs had tested positive for the coronavirus.

And five Iranian members of parliament have also tested positive, the semi-official Fars news agency said.

Meanwhile, Iran’s armed forces have reduced their basic combat training to a month because of the increased spread.

But there is still no sign of any respite from the virus.

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