Government employees went back to work in Iran on Saturday, and President Hassan Rouhani said mosques would resume daily prayers across the country, even though some areas are seeing high levels of coronavirus infections.
Rouhani also said on state television that shopping malls would be able to stay open beyond the 6pm (13:30 GMT) closing time imposed as part of the lockdown, a further step in the government’s plans to steadily ease the curbs.
“Doors to mosques across the country will open to the public for daily prayers,” Rouhani said, adding that worshippers should observe social distancing and other health protocols. He did not say when mosques would reopen.
Authorities are taking tougher measures to ensure health regulations are observed, such as barring people from buses and metro trains if they do not wear face masks, Iranian media reported.
Alireza Zali, head of the government-led Coronavirus Taskforce of Tehran, told state TV the situation in the capital was “still not favourable,” adding that the gradual easing of curbs should be accompanied by a “more serious observance” of the rules.
Iran, hit by the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of the virus, began to loosen restrictions on human interaction in April, classifying areas as white, orange and red – respectively indicating low, medium and high risk for coronavirus infections.
Authorities had progressively closed mosques across Iran after confirming the first coronavirus infections in February.