President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday said provinces in high-risk areas will be able to impose restrictions at a local level in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, but that any decisions still had to be approved by the Health Ministry and the president.
“In any province whose counties encounter a problem, the provincial committee should immediately formulate required predictions and limitations and send them to the security, social and health committee so that the necessary restrictions can be enforced in those areas after the president’s approval,” Rouhani said.
He made the remarks at a meeting of the National Headquarters for Managing and Fighting the Coronavirus in Tehran on Saturday, joined by provincial governors via video links.
During the meeting, the president said it was decided that a “red” situation would be declared based on the conditions of a certain region or county, rather than a province.
Seven of Iran’s 31 provinces – Khuzestan, Khorasan Razavi, Kermanshah, West and East Azerbaijan, Golestan and Kurdistan – are currently pronounced as “red,” the highest level on its color-coded risk scale, the Health Ministry said.
The president hailed the Iranian people’s cooperation in the fight against the outbreak and the sacrifices made by medical staff over the past four months that the country has been grappling with the highly contagious virus.
He warned that stress created by the disease could leave people “depressed.”
He called on experts and artists to prepare Iranians mentally “to fight the virus for a long time.”
“Without perseverance and continuity, we risk losing all our gains,” said the president.
In the fifth month of the battle, different economic, cultural and spiritual activities can go on while adhering to hygiene protocols, Rouhani said, adding, “In fact, we say yes to continuing activities, but no to unnecessary movements and gatherings.”
The president also stressed that some provinces have passed the peak of the disease while others will pass the peak in the coming days.
He announced September 5 and 7 as the dates set for the opening of schools and universities, respectively.
Rouhani also said the government is considering making it mandatory within days to wear masks in public places and covered spaces.
“Mainly for crowded and covered areas… we may make masks compulsory in a week, more or less. But first plenty of inexpensive masks should be made available for the people,” he said.
Daily death rates for most of this week have exceeded 100 for the first time in two months.
The Health Ministry on Saturday announced 115 deaths in the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 9,507. There were 2,322 reported new cases, bringing the total to 202,584.
Official figures have shown an upward trajectory in new cases of infection since early May.
Reuters, AFP and Press TV contributed to this story.