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Iran’s Rouhani says COVID-19 measures may be eased within weeks

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said he expects measures taken to combat the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus, including social distancing, to be eased within the next two to three weeks.

Accusing “counter-revolutionaries” of attempting to shut down economic production, Rouhani said in a televised address on Saturday his country “has to do everything” to return economic activity back to normal.

Iran is one of the hardest-hit countries worldwide by the virus, with an official death toll only behind Italy and China. On Saturday, the health ministry’s latest tally said the death toll had risen by more than 100 to 1,556, while the number of infected people stood at 20,610. A total of 7,635 people have recovered in Iran.

Al Jazeera’s Zein Basravi, reporting from the capital, Tehran, said Rouhani tried to “strike a balance” between addressing the public health crisis and maintaining the country’s economic and sociopolitical stability going forward.

“This is a country that has lost patience with its own government over a series of crises that the country has experienced in the last few months,” he said.

Already reeling from years of economic sanctions following US President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from a nuclear deal Iran had signed with world powers three years earlier, the country’s inability to procure badly needed medical equipment from international markets has hampered its efforts to combat COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Since announcing its first two COVID-19 deaths in the holy Shia city of Qom on February 19, Iran has taken a series of steps to contain the virus.

It has closed schools and universities until early April, as well as four key pilgrimage sites, including the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom.

Iran has also cancelled the main weekly Friday prayers, and temporarily closed Parliament.

Source: Al Jazeera


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