Mosques in Iran reopened Tuesday as the government moved slowly to ease restrictions forced on the Muslim faithful by the Chinese coronavirus.
Various domestic newsgencies reported the shift even as lockdowns continue in many areas and the rate of infection in the wider community shows little sign of abating.
Last Friday, Reuters reports prayer gatherings resumed in up to 180 Iranian cities and towns seen as being at low risk of 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, according to the IRNA news website, although the ban on those who insist on licking and kissing sacred Muslim icons at shrines remains.
Devout Muslims were warned in March they could be jailed and flogged after videos emerged of them licking holy shrines to prove their personal invincibility against any threat of infection.
More videos are emerging of people licking the shrines in the city of Qom #CoronaVirus, the epicentre of the epidemic in Iran.
Iran's authorities still adamantly refuse to close these religious sites.
The virus is wreaking havoc all over the country pic.twitter.com/veCQd6ots6
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 1, 2020
As Breitbart News reported, the faithful recorded the practice and then released it on social media as a means of encouraging others to follow suit.
Touching and kissing surfaces in shrines is a common practice for Muslim pilgrims, and religious hardliners argue the holy sites of Qom are “a place for healing.”
However such is the scale of the viral infection spreading across Iran the government decided to act and issued a series of bans and penalties that still apply.
The total number of Iran’s coronavirus deaths rose by 45 in the past 24 hours to 6,685, Ministry of Health spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a statement on state television, according to Reuters.
The total number of diagnosed cases in the Islamic Republic has reached 109,286.