Coronavirus-hit Iran to make masks compulsory from next week

Mask-wearing would be “obligatory in covered spaces where there are gatherings,” the Iranian leadership said. (WANA via Reuters)
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Updated 28 June 2020

Coronavirus-hit Iran to make masks compulsory from next week

  • Islamic republic has desisted from enforcing full lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Death toll has crossed 10,000 and the number of infected reached more than 220,000

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that mask-wearing will be mandatory in certain areas as of next week and gave virus-hit provinces the green light to reimpose restrictive measures.
The Islamic republic has refrained from enforcing full lockdowns to stop the spread of the COVID-19 disease, and the use of masks and protective equipment has been optional in most areas.
Mask-wearing would be “obligatory in covered spaces where there are gatherings,” Rouhani said during a televised meeting of the country’s anti-virus taskforce.
The measure would come into force as of next week, continue until July 22 and would be extended if necessary, he said.
Rouhani said the health ministry had devised “a clear list” of the types of spaces and gatherings deemed high-risk, but he did not elaborate.
He also did not say what the penalty would be for those who fail to observe the measure.
According to deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi, “services will not be given” to those without masks in areas such as “government organizations and shopping malls.”
Iran reported its first COVID-19 cases on February 19 and it has since struggled to contain the outbreak as the death toll has crossed 10,000 and the number of infected reached more than 220,000.
Official figures have shown a rising trajectory in new confirmed cases since early May, when Iran hit a near two-month low in daily recorded infections.
The increasing caseload has seen some previously unscathed provinces classified as “red” — the highest level on Iran’s color-coded risk scale — with authorities allowing them to reimpose restrictive measures if required.
According to Rouhani, the measure would be also extended to provinces with “red” counties.
“Any county that is red, its provincial (virus) committee can propose reimposing limitations for a week,” which could be extended if needed, he said.
The health ministry launched an “#I wear a mask” campaign on Saturday and pleaded with Iranians to observe guidelines aimed at curbing infections.
One Iranian is infected with COVID-19 every 33 seconds and one dies from the disease every 13 minutes, Harirchi said on Saturday.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”