President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said restrictions will be restored if warnings are not heeded and the coronavirus outbreak peaks again.
“People and businesses must take officials’ warnings very seriously that there will be another peak if regulations and social distancing are not observed,” Rouhani said and warned that restrictions will be restored wherever the virus spreads quickly.
President Rouhani’s remarks came in response to the Health Minister Saeed Namaki’s warning about the increase in holiday trips due to a long holiday this week which puts tourist destinations in danger of higher infections.
Iranian officials color-coded the country into white, yellow, and red zones in April and said restrictions will be lifted only in white zones where the risk of the epidemic was lower.
However, last week they changed their approach and lifted all coronavirus restrictions across the country on Saturday despite daily new infection cases being more than 3,000; back to early April levels.
Talking about the new measures Rouhani on Saturday stressed that people must believe that “going back to normal” is not possible in the short term and they need to consider the changed lifestyle for years to come.
The jump in infections has led to serious concerns among health officials who keep warning that the situation is far from normal.
On Saturday in addition to opening mosques for prayers (but not large gatherings and funeral services), shopping centers and malls were also allowed to stay open for longer hours and government employees went back to work.
Iran has the highest number of cases in the Middle East and its economy, already under the heavy burden of U.S. sanctions, has been hit the worst by the pandemic.
According to the latest announcement of the Health Ministry the total number of cases in Iran now stands at more than 160,000 with more than 8,000 fatalities.