People not wearing masks against the novel coronavirus should be refused service as of Sunday in enclosed public spaces, President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday, as his government moves to make it obligatory.
Wearing masks becomes mandatory from Sunday in covered public places, Rouhani said on television after tougher curbs were imposed in cities and towns in five provinces where the outbreak is rising after an easing of lockdowns from mid-April.
“Government employees should not serve people who do not wear masks and employees who do not wear them should be considered absentees and sent home,” said Rouhani while addressing the committee in charge of Iran's drive to stem the virus outbreak – among the deadliest in the West Asia.
He said that the new order "requires some guarantees that it will be respected".
"In government offices, that is likely to be easier – we can simply deny entry to people not wearing masks."
“If someone wants to enter an office which is a crowded place – be it a bank or a government office or the municipality – they must use masks. If they do not, deny them services. This means that services must be subject to respecting health protocols,” Rouhani said.
Those infected have a “religious duty” to notify others, Rouhani said, adding: “Keeping your infection a secret violates the rights of other people”.
The new measure goes into effect as part of efforts to bring down a daily death toll that has remained in triple figures.
Face masks are already mandatory on public transport in Iran and the Tehran City Council acknowledges that the rule is widely flouted on the bus and metro services it runs.
The government has been trying to convince a reluctant public to accept masks and a week-long campaign by television has been warning viewers that “Corona is not a joke”.
During the public information campaign, officials and state television anchors wore masks on camera to encourage their use.
One TV presenter at the end of every newscast puts on her mask and says: “There is no one in my immediate three meters, but I wear a mask outside the studio. You, too, wear one.”
Iran’s Armed Forces has reduced their two-month basic combat training by a month until further notice because of the increased spread of the coronavirus.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said 148 deaths had been recorded over the past 24 hours, only slightly down on the 154 she reported on Friday.
Iran's overall toll now stands at 11,408, with 237,878 confirmed infections since it reported its first cases in late February.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.