Iran cancels Friday prayers to limit spread of coronavirus

For the first time in decades, Iran canceled Friday prayers in Tehran and 22 other provincial capitals in a battle to try and limit the spread of the new coronavirus disease.

A March 2018 aerial photograph of Fatima Masumeh Shrine with golden dome.
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

The country also placed some restrictions on access to major Shia Muslim shrines in Qom, the epicenter of the country’s COVID-19 outbreak, and Mashhad.

The Iranian health ministry meanwhile warned that the number of cases would continue to rise in the coming days.

On Friday, it reported 388 confirmed cases and 34 related deaths, the death toll being by far the highest number outside China.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice-president for women’s and family affairs and the highest-ranking woman in the Iranian government, became the latest official to be infected on Thursday.

One local website reported that Ms. Ebtekar had attended a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and a number of ministers shortly before testing positive.

Iran has also been the source of dozens of cases in neighbouring countries, including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman and Pakistan.

There have been 82,000 reported cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 2,800 deaths since the disease emerged late last year.