On March 16, 4 key Shiite pilgrimage sites were closed by Iran in an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The death toll in the country due to coronavirus has crossed over 850 and the country has reported almost 15,000 cases in total. The shrines that were closed were the holy shrines of Imam Reza in Mashhad, Fatima Masumeh in Qom and Shah Abdol-Azim in Tehran.
According to reports, the state media announced that the shrined were closed until further notice and their closure was ordered by the anti-coronavirus headquarters and Irans health minister. The Qom’s Jamkaran mosque also said that it would close its doors soon. Several sections of the public were unhappy with the decision and protested outside Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine. They were reportedly chanting religious slogans and also damaged the entrance door.
Since the viruses discovery in Qom in the month of February, the coronavirus has spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces. Qom remains one of the worst-hit regions by the coronavirus, followed by Tehran and Khorasan Razavi. The disease has killed at least 12 Iranian politicians and officials and infected 13 more that have been quarantined or are currently being treated.
Ayatollah Hashem Bathaie Golpayegani had died of COVID-19 infection on March 16. According to reports, the 78-year-old was a high-ranking clergyman and also one of the 88 members of the Assembly of Experts which is a key government body of top clergyman which chooses Iran's Supreme Leader.
Golpayegani was reportedly hospitalised in Qom on March 14 as several political and religious leaders contract the fatal virus in Iran. The death of Iranian cleric came just a couple of days after the country announced that its security forces will clear the streets nationwide within 24 hours in a bid to test all citizens for COVID-19. Moreover, according to the news agency, it was Iran's toughest measure yet to combat the deadly outbreak which has already spread to at least 158 countries. The Islamic Republic has already shut schools, postponed events and even discouraged travel ahead of its New Year holidays.