Iran’s economy will cautiously begin operating again, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, despite continuing to struggle with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East.
Rouhani announced on television that “low-risk” activities will begin on Saturday in most areas of the country and follow in the capital Tehran a week later.
The president did not spell what he meant by such activities, but said the suspension of “high-risk activities” – schools, universities and various social, cultural, sports and religious events – would be extended to 18 April.
More than 3,400 people have been killed by the virus, and there are concerns about how long the country can operate with an economy already damaged by US-imposed sanctions.
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Iran has so far refused to impose a full lockdown within cities, though it has encouraged people to stay at home.
“Two-thirds of all Iranian government employees will work out of the office from Saturday… The decision does not contradict stay-at-home advice by the health authorities,” said Rouhani.
He also extended a ban on intercity travel, imposed after health ministry officials complained that many Iranians ignored appeals to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Iranian New Year holidays that began on 20 March.
Health authorities have since warned of a new wave of coronavirus infections in the Islamic Republic.
The health ministry said on Saturday that Iran had a total of 55,743 cases. The daily death toll has continued rising by at least 158 in the previous 24 hours to 3,452.
The United States recently imposed a new set of sanctions against Iran, despite pleas from key members of Congress and world powers that Washington ease its stance, as Iran struggles to cope with the rapidly spreading virus.