Iran surpassed its single-day record for both new coronavirus infections and deaths on Monday for the second straight day, with more than 4,200 new cases and 272 fatalities.
As Iran’s daily recorded death toll reached the triple digits this month, government authorities “announced tighter restrictions for the hard-hit capital of Tehran. Recently reopened universities and schools, as well as libraries, mosques, cinemas, museums and beauty salons shut down,” the Hindustan Times reported on Monday. “On Saturday, the government-mandated that all Tehran residents wear face masks outdoors and in public places, warning violators would be fined. Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei promised those who tested positive [for coronavirus] would be closely tracked.”
Despite the government’s promise to enforce contact tracing, Iran’s population of 80 million poses a serious challenge to authorities and their efforts to contain the virus’s spread.
According to the report, many Iranians “tired of staying home” from previous lockdowns now openly defy the government health mandates to social distance, instead choosing to crowd cafes and restaurants. Others ignore mandates to wear a mask in public as “[t]hose who disobey face fines of just 500,000 riyals, or $1.60.”
The Iranian government has resisted imposing another lockdown on the public in an effort to salvage its failing economy.
Iran’s Minister of Health Saeed Namaki said on Sunday that harsher punishments are needed for people who fail to comply with anti-coronavirus measures. He noted that the paltry fines for refusing to wear a mask in public would hardly deter people from defying health mandates.
“Lamenting that the health ministry’s 7,000 inspectors couldn’t handle the sprawling city of over 10 million [Tehran], he empowered the police and Basij forces, a paramilitary wing of the Revolutionary Guard used for internal security, to help enforce pandemic rules,” Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. “In the coming weeks, Namaki added, authorities plan to extend the mask mandate to other major cities.”
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), a dissident group, recorded over 121,600 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus in Iran as of Monday. Iran’s official death count, as reported by the government, “stands at 28,816, around a fifth of the actual figure,” the group claimed.