News ID: 271376
Published: 0306 GMT July 11, 2020

Rouhani rules out lockdown, calls on Iranians to respect protocols

Rouhani rules out lockdown, calls on Iranians to respect protocols

President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday Iran cannot afford to shut down its economy amid US sanctions which are hampering the country’s fight against the coronavirus outbreak.

“The closure of businesses is not possible in the long run. No government can shut down its country's economic activities in the long run,” the president said during a televised meeting with the coronavirus taskforce committee in Tehran.

“The way out of these conditions is to carry out the necessary economic, social, cultural and other needs activities in compliance with health protocols. There is no second way. Everyone should try,” Rouhani added.

"The simplest solution is to close down all activities, (but) the next day, people would come out to protest the (resulting) chaos, hunger, hardship, and pressure," he added.

“Our dear people are aware that we have been dealing with COVID-19 for five months and we have had ups and downs regarding this disease,” Rouhani said.

He called on the public to cooperate with the government by observing health protocols.

“If this cooperation is disrupted, our success will be hampered. Coronaphobia and normalization of the virus are both dangerous,” Rouhani said.

The president also called for big gatherings such as weddings and wakes to be banned to stem the rise in coronavirus infections.

“We must ban ceremonies and gatherings all over the country, whether it be wakes, weddings or parties,” Rouhani said.

“Now is not the time for festivals or seminars,” he said, adding that even university entrance exams may have to be suspended.

Rouhani and other officials have blamed the rise in infections partly on wedding parties, wakes, and other public gatherings.

Iran has been struggling since late February to contain the country's COVID-19 outbreak, the deadliest in West Asia.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari reported Saturday that 188 people had died from the respiratory disease in the past 24 hours, raising the overall toll to 12,635.

Iran's daily COVID-19 death toll has topped 100 since around mid-June, with a record single-day tally of 221 reported on Thursday.

Lari also raised the country's caseload to 255,117, with 2,397 new infections recorded.

The outbreak's rising toll has prompted authorities to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces and to allow the hardest hit provinces to reimpose restrictive measures.

Iran closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement between its 31 provinces in March, but the government progressively lifted restrictions from April to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.

Iran has suffered a sharp economic downturn after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed tough sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran's economy will shrink by six percent this year.

Health Minister Saeid Namaki on Wednesday blamed US sanctions for the government's "empty coffers".

The reopening of the economy "was not over our ignorance (of the virus' dangers), but it was due to us being on our knees against an economy that could take no more", Namaki said on television.

US sanctions targeted vital oil sales and banking relations, among other sectors, forcing Iran to rely on non-oil exports, which have dropped as borders were closed to stem the spread of the virus.

AFP, Reuters, and Press TV contributed to this story.




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