Iran eases coronavirus restrictions, reopening some businesses

Iran continued on Monday its gradual reopening of its economy by allowing traditional bazaars and modern shopping malls to restart and lifting travel restrictions around the country.

The Iranian government has called its plan “smart distancing,” instead of the strict social distancing measures imposed by most other countries hoping to flatten the coronavirus infection rates. Yet not much distancing was observed as commuters used trains and buses and shoppers crowded the narrow, winding passageways that shape Tehran’s traditional bazaar.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said he was considering opening religious shrines two weeks earlier than scheduled upon requests from custodians of the religious centres.

Health officials in the country, one of the first outside China to be stricken hard by the virus, continued to warn that another jump of infections and deaths was inevitable.

“Contact among the public has increased with the opening of shopping centres and people moving around on public transportation,” said Alireza Zali, the head of Iran’s coronavirus relief committee.

There has been a steady rise in people infected with the virus and being hospitalized, Zali added, including a 2 percent surge in the number of patients being admitted to intensive care units over the past 24 hours.

The health ministry reported on Monday 1,294 new cases and that 91 people had died. Iran’s official toll amounts to 5,209 people dead and 83,505 infected.