June 13 (Reuters) – Iran will reimpose restrictions to stem a surge in coronavirus cases if health regulations are not observed, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday.
After gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, Iran has seen a sharp rise of new daily infections in recent weeks.
While compliance with health protocols was as high as 80% percent a month ago, it is now down to 20%, Rouhani said in a televised speech. He blamed the surge on travellers spreading the coronavirus to previously low risk provinces.
With 2,410 new cases on Saturday, the total has reached 184,955. With the death of 71 people in the past 24 hours, total fatalities stand at 8,730, the health ministry said.
Rouhani expressed concern about mass prayers at the recently opened Imam Reza shrine, Iran’s largest Shia Muslim religious complex in the northeast of the country.
“If there is no cooperation, we will have to reimpose the restrictions,” Rouhani said, adding that adherence to the health protocols were needed “in order to keep businesses open”.
Tehran faced stiff resistance from hard line clerics before it succeeded in closing holy shrines in mid-March. The closure sparked demonstrations with angry crowds storming the shrines of Imam Reza in Mashhad and Fatemeh Massoumeh in Qom.
Shia pilgrims from all over the world visit the shrines, which may have contributed to the initial spread of the virus.
(Editing by Alexander Smith)