TEHRAN: Iran has made wearing masks mandatory in certain areas and has allowed virus-hit provinces to reimpose restrictions as deaths mounted from the coronavirus.
The new steps were announced on Sunday as Iran counted 144 new fatalities from the COVID-19 disease, its highest death toll for a single day in almost three months.
Iran has refrained from enforcing full lockdowns to stop the pandemic’s spread, and the use of masks and protective equipment has been optional in most areas.
President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would have to live with the virus for the “long haul” as he announced the latest measures to combat it.
During a televised meeting of the country’s anti-virus taskforce, the Iran president said wearing masks would be obligatory in covered spaces where there are gatherings.
The measure would come into force as of next week, continue until July 22 and would be extended if necessary.
Rouhani said the health ministry had devised a clear list of the types of spaces and gatherings deemed high-risk. He did not mention what the penalty would be for those who fail to observe the measure.
According to deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi, services would not be provided to those without masks in areas such as government organisations and shopping malls.
It may be difficult to implement the measure, as according to Tehran’s mayor, many people do not wear masks in places like the public transport network where it is already mandatory.
“Fifty percent of metro passengers wear masks… and even fewer in buses,” Mayor Pirouz Hanachi was quoted as saying by a local news agency. “We can’t forcefully confront people without masks,” he added.
The Iraninan health ministry on Sunday announced 144 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, its highest for a single day since April 5, raising the total to 10,508. The total confirmed infections also been raised to 222,669 with 2,489 new cases during the same period.
Iran closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement between provinces in March. The government progressively lifted restrictions from April to try to reopen its economy that started to suffer under the pressures of the health crisis.
The government launched an “#I wear a mask” campaign on Saturday and pleaded with Iranians to observe guidelines aimed at curbing infections.
One Iranian is reportedly infected with COVID-19 every 33 seconds and one dies from the disease every 13 minutes.