Stepping up its fight against the new coronavirus outbreak, Iran has begun banning people from leaving their cities and requiring those who are already on Persian New Year trips to return to their hometowns at the earliest opportunity.
Spokesman for the Iranian administration Ali Rabiei made the remarks in a Twitter thread on Wednesday following a cabinet session that was chaired by President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran earlier.
“In light of the fact that the country has brought the first wave [of the outbreak] under control and in order to prevent a new wave, the president announced a ban on all new inter-city trips,” Rabiei wrote. “Those violating this directive will be subjected to legal action.”
A pending amendment to the directive would, however, specify individuals and cases that are exempt from the measure, the official told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.
The country would also enforce the closure of all parks as well as any sites that might draw large clusters of people, he said.
Those who have tested positive for the disease should observe the Health Ministry’s relevant directives, including staying in isolation for 15 consecutive days, and are banned from traveling around freely against the precautions, the official noted.
Public offices and businesses are all ordered closed, except for stores supplying groceries and basic supplies, until April 3, the official added.
The Judiciary is set to announce the legal implications of violating the measures, and the Law Enforcement Force is required to act upon the announcement, Rabiei said.
The policies should attain the status of a social agreement among all members of the nation, he said, adding that popular contribution to the measures would reduce the virus’ lifespan and the human cost that it could inflict, the spokesman tweeted.
“We need to stand by each other to pass through this difficult stage and trust the health apparatus and the government’s decisions,” Rabiei added.
He, meanwhile, expressed satisfaction that the country faced no shortage of staples for the months to come.
According to the World Health Organization, since emerging in central China late last year, the respiratory disease has claimed more than 18,900 lives and infected more than 425,000 others.
Earlier, Rouhani also told the cabinet meeting that later on Wednesday, the country would begin enforcing a plan featuring “stricter” countrywide measures aimed at preventing further spread of the new coronavirus.
The plan, he said, had been discussed in detail during a session of the National Headquarters for Managing and Fighting the Coronavirus on Tuesday. During that session, the Health Ministry tabled a measure aimed at enforcing “social distancing” that had to be employed more rigorously in certain places, Rouhani noted.
The new measures were to be employed “because we could begin facing a new wave of the disease over the upcoming days that we should likewise bring under control,” he said.
The chief executive said the tough measures have to be enacted because “people’s lives are very important to us.”
“People should know that these harsh decisions are aimed at protecting their lives,” Rouhani said. “What matters is that people suffer minimum losses, have no problem procuring their requirements, and that the period spent fighting the virus is cut to a minimum,” the president asserted.
He, meanwhile, expressed delight that most cities and provinces were not facing any shortages as far as medical services and hospital facilities were concerned.
He cited the case of hospitals in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad, where general and intensive care wards had respectively reported 60 and 30 percent of their beds to be still available.
Draft resolution on US sanctions
Separately, Rouhani pointed to the United States’ illegal sanctions against Iran that Washington was keeping in place amid the Islamic Republic’s battle against the virus despite a global outcry.
He said a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council — that he did not identify by name — was to present the Council with a draft resolution protesting the bans.
“What is being talked about at the Security Council now is that a resolution should be ratified to enable the lifting of the sanctions amid the virus outbreak,” Rouhani said.
Efforts are underway to unlock Iran’s frozen assets overseas, he said. “Good steps are being taken to that end,” the president stated without specifying.
Ministry updates number of confirmed cases, deaths
Presenting its daily COVID-19 update on Wednesday, the Iranian Health Ministry said the number of deaths had increased by 143 to 2,077 since Tuesday.
The ministry’s spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour also said the total number of confirmed infections had risen by 2,206 cases to reach 27,017 during the past 24 hours.
Jahanpour further noted that 9,625 COVID-19 patients had already recovered and been discharged from hospital around the country.
More than 47.5 million people have so far been screened for the viral infection through online and telephone monitoring programs, he said.