The Deputy Health Minister of Iran, Iraj Harirchi, on April 4 warned that greater Tehran area may face a coronavirus resurgence as many residents ignored the advisories to stay home. As the country’s New Year holidays ended on April 4, crowded streets and traffic jams across the city were reported. Harirchi said that the authorities are still concerned about the virus outbreak as several stores re-opened despite a closure order on non-essential services and businesses.
On a televised speech, Harirchi said, “We are still concerned about the virus, for example with the level of traffic in Tehran today and queues of cars stuck on freeways because these people can take the virus to their homes or workplaces. Even a medium level of the virus here can spread to nearby cities with a high level of job-related traffic between nearby cities and Tehran”.
He further cautioned about a probable return of coronavirus in case of negligence and said social distancing measures were absolutely necessary. As per reports, authorities have also complained that several Iranians ignored appeals to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the New Years' holidays. In a bid to contain the spread of the virus, officials also imposed inter-city travel bans on March 25.
Currently, Iran has more than 55,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and the deadly virus has claimed almost 3,452 lives in the country. Last week, Iran temporarily also released almost 100,000 prisoners to contain the spread of the virus, however, authorities reported unrest in several prisons. While speaking to a local media outlet, Governor Enayatollah Rahimi said that the prisoners broke cameras and caused other damage in two sections housing, violent criminals.
According to reports, around 70 inmates had also escaped Saqqez Prison in western Kurdistan province. The prisoners reportedly also started beating the guards during the chaos. Currently, 50,000 prisoners are reportedly behind bars, including violent offenders and so-called ‘security cases’. The families of detainees have also accused Iran of holding the prisoners for political reasons or use them as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended his government’s action to combat the outbreak while also dealing with a crippled economy. Rouhani also said that ‘new way of life’ that has been adopted is for everyone’s benefit and that the ‘changes will likely have to stay in place for some time’. He further said that the country must prepare to live with coronavirus until a treatment or vaccine is discovered.