TEHRAN (Iran News) – Iran will reopen all mosques for three nights over the next week in Ramadan so that worshippers can pray during one of the holiest times of the year, Health Minister Saeid Namaki said Tuesday.
The country shut all mosques and shrines in March as part of efforts to contain the West Asia’s deadliest outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The reopening was granted for the Nights of Qadr (value) – a high point during the fasting month of Ramadan that marks when the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Namaki sounded a note of caution as he announced that worshippers would be allowed to attend mosques and ceremonies for three of the next five nights.
“The biggest strategic mistake is to think that the coronavirus is finished,” he said in remarks broadcast on national television.
“At any time, we can go back to bad circumstances” due to “negligence”, said Namaki.
“Our priority is to hold ceremonies outdoors” such as “in stadiums”, he said, “so that social distancing is properly observed.”
Namaki said his ministry agreed in a meeting to help “organize ceremonies from midnight to 2:00 a.m. during the Nights of Qadr”.
He said the move came in response to “concern” expressed by Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and stressed the Leader “always supports all measures” to contain the virus.
All gatherings would need to respect “health protocols to the maximum”, he added.
His remarks came shortly before Iran announced another 48 deaths from the virus taking its overall toll to 6,733.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said another 1,481 people tested positive for the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 110,767 since the start of the crisis.
Iran has struggled to contain its outbreak of the virus that causes COVID-19 since announcing its first cases in the holy city of Qom on February 19.
The government closed schools, postponed major events, and banned intercity travel but it has eased restrictions gradually since April 11.
Last Friday, the main weekly prayer gatherings resumed in up to 180 Iranian cities, and towns are seen as being at low risk of the coronavirus contagion after a two-month suspension.
The resumption of Friday prayers — still banned in the capital Tehran and some other major cities — followed the reopening last Monday of 132 mosques in areas consistently free of the virus.
Schools will reopen next week, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday.
The government warned on Monday of a setback in its efforts to contain the virus.
“We have regressed in Khuzestan due to (people) not observing health protocols,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeisi said, referring to a southwestern province that is now the epicenter of the country’s outbreak.
“This can happen to any other province if we are not careful,” he added, noting that tighter measures would be reimposed in other places too if needed.
Authorities have shut down state bodies, banks, and nonessential businesses again in nine of Khuzestan’s counties. A county was also placed under lockdown.
The governor of Khuzestan said there had been a sharp rise in new cases across the province.
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei said “less than 50 percent” of Khuzestan residents have observed health protocols.
“We’ve seen a rising trend of infection and death (in Khuzestan) which shows protocols and social distancing are not being observed,” he said in a televised news conference.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.
- source : Iran Daily, Irannews