Iran begins lifting restrictions after virus lockdown

Iranians, some wearing personal protective equipment, walk past shops in the southeastern city of Kerman on April 11, 2020, amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 12 April 2020

Iran begins lifting restrictions after virus lockdown

  • Government offices outside Iran’s capital, Tehran, reopened on Saturday with a third of all employees working from home, state media reported

TEHRAN, DUBAI: Iran began reopening government offices on Saturday after a brief nationwide lockdown to help contain the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, which has killed more than 4,300 people in the country.
Authorities had ordered most government agencies and all nonessential businesses to remain closed for a week after the Nowruz holiday ended on April 4.
President Hassan Rouhani urged Iranian to respect health protocols to guard against the virus.
“Easing restrictions does not mean ignoring health protocols ... social distancing and other health protocols should be respected seriously by people,” Rouhani was quoted as saying.
Government offices outside Iran’s capital, Tehran, reopened on Saturday with a third of all employees working from home, state media reported. Women who have young children were given priority in deciding who works remotely. Businesses outside the capital were also allowed to reopen.
Businesses in Tehran will be allowed to reopen next Saturday, provided they register with authorities and follow guidelines on social distancing set out by the Health Ministry. Government offices in the capital will reopen with two-thirds of employees coming in.
The Health Ministry, meanwhile, reported another 125 deaths, bringing the overall toll to 4,357. Iran has reported more than 70,000 confirmed cases, and authorities say more than 40,000 have recovered.

For weeks, Iran declined to impose the kind of wide-scale lockdowns adopted by other Middle Eastern countries, even as the number of confirmed cases and fatalities steadily climbed. The virus has also infected and killed a number of senior Iranian officials.
Authorities have defended their response, saying they have to consider the economic impact of any quarantine measures since the country is under severe U.S. sanctions.
In a separate development, Iran executed one of the alleged ringleaders of a prison break last month, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. It said Mostafa Salimi had been on death row for killing two policemen during a prison riot in 2004.
Around 70 convicts escaped from a prison in the western city of Saqqez on March 27 after fighting with the guards. Iran has temporarily released around 90,000 prisoners, but those held in Saqqez were not among them.
IRNA quoted a local prosecutor as saying authorities had arrested 65 of the escaped prisoners and were still searching for the other nine.


Israel records highest single-day virus tally

Updated 44 min 30 sec ago

Israel records highest single-day virus tally

  • Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that the decision to allow businesses, including bars and event spaces, to re-open may have been made “too soon”
  • Certain towns and city neighborhoods across the country considered virus hotspots have been placed under more robust lockdowns

JERUSALEM: Israel has recorded its highest number of coronavirus infections over a 24-hour period, with nearly 1,500 new cases confirmed in the most recent daily count, the health ministry said Friday.
Israel had won early praise for its virus containment efforts, but cases have surged since a broad re-opening began in May.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted in a late Thursday news conference that the decision to allow businesses, including bars and event spaces, to re-open may have been made “too soon.”
“I take responsibility for it,” he told reporters.
From midnight (2100 GMT) on Wednesday to midnight on Thursday, the health ministry registered 1,504 new coronavirus infections — the highest single-day tally since Israel confirmed its first case on February 21.
The country of roughly nine million has now registered more than 36,000 cases, including 351 deaths.
Various restrictions have been re-imposed, including the closure of venues, clubs, bars, gyms and public pools.
Limits on the number of people allowed in restaurants and places of worship have also been reinstated.
Certain towns and city neighborhoods across the country considered virus hotspots have been placed under more robust lockdowns.
Israel’s director of public health services, Siegal Sadetzki, resigned this week, blasting her superiors for ignoring her advice and steering Israel’s virus response off course.
“Despite repeated warnings in different forums, we are watching with frustration as our window of opportunity (to contain the virus) is running out,” Sadetzki said in a Facebook post announcing her resignation.