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Rouhani rules out lockdown, calls on Iranians to respect protocols

Iranian men, wearing personal protective equipment, are pictured at an electronics shop in Mashhad on April 11, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

President Hassan Rouhani says Iran cannot afford to shut down its economy amid the most draconian US sanctions which are hampering the country’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

“The closure of businesses is not possible in the long run. No government can shut down its country's economic activities for long,” the president said during a televised meeting with the corornavirus taskforce committee in Tehran.

"The way out of these conditions is to carry out the necessary economic, social, cultural and other activities in compliance with health protocols. There is no second way. Everyone should try,” Rouhani added.

The simplest solution was to close down all activities, but "the next day, people would come out to protest the resulting chaos, hunger, hardship and pressure," he added.

The Islamic Republic has been trying since late February to contain the country's COVID-19 outbreak.

Iran closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement among its 31 provinces in March, but the government progressively lifted restrictions from April to reopen its economy.

The outbreak's rising toll has prompted authorities to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and to allow the hardest hit provinces to reimpose restrictive measures.

Iran is fighting the outbreak amid the US sanctions which President Donald Trump imposed on the country after withdrawing from a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018.

“Our dear people are aware that we have been dealing with COVID-19 for five months and we have had ups and downs regarding this disease,” Rouhani said.

He called on the public to cooperate with the government by observing health protocols.

“If this cooperation is disrupted, our success will be hampered. Coronaphobia and normalization of the virus are both dangerous,” Rouhani said.

On Saturday, Iran’s Health Ministry reported 188 new deaths from the coronavirus during the past 24 hours, taking the overall toll to in the country to 12,635.

Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said 2,397 new cases had been detected, which raised the nationwide tally to 255,117.

So far, 217,666 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, she added.

The situation in six provinces is red which is the highest category in the country's virus risk scaling, while 10 other provinces are on alert, including the capital Tehran.   

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