TEHRAN—Iran is preparing for a wide-ranging lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19, listing more than 300 cities and towns for strict new restrictions that will likely inflict more pain on its sanctions-battered economy.
The government imposed a lockdown on Tehran in October but for months had resisted sweeping curbs outside the capital, hoping to avoid deepening a financial crisis that has pummeled ordinary households and sparked massive protests. But infection rates have accelerated dramatically over the past month, leaving it no choice, officials said.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki on Tuesday warned that a lockdown was the last chance for the health system to “avoid an abyss that we can no longer recover from,” according to the official IRNA news agency. With more than 90,000 new infections recorded over the past week, Iran’s official case load is now four times higher than during the first peak earlier this year. More than 800,000 people in Iran have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and over 43,000 have died. On Thursday, more than 13,000 new infections and 476 deaths were confirmed.
Under the lockdown, which begins Saturday and follows a nightly curfew imposed on businesses in about 30 cities last week, authorities will close nonessential businesses in cities and towns with the highest risk of contagion. Two-thirds of staff in government offices in those areas will be sent home. Schools and universities will move to remote learning.
Religious and cultural centers, including mosques, will close and private traffic will be banned from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Physical attendance in meetings, including in the cabinet, will be limited to 15 people.