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Iran Coronavirus Taskforce To Limit Road Trips Between 11 Provinces

A photo shows an almost empty road in the Iranian capital Tehran, March 13, 2020

In a meeting of the Coronavirus Combat Taskforce Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the Health Ministry's decision to limit and control road trips between eleven provinces was worthwhile and called on officials to inform the public before taking any steps in this regard.

According to the government website, Rouhani who took part in the meeting of the taskforce via video-conferencing did not agree with imposing a cash fine on people who have signs of the illness but travel on the road and said sending them back or to the hospital would be enough as a penalty.

Saeed Namaki, Minister of Health, has said that new curbs are to be introduced in regard to movements of people, particularly those who are infected or contaminated but did not offer any details of the plan.

On Saturday Cabinet Spokesman Ali Rabiee denied all rumors about a lockdown on Tehran and called it "a big lie". Rabiee stressed that working hours for shops, bakeries and other essential businesses will not be changed.

On Friday, the newly appointed coronavirus military coordinator, General Mohammad Baqeri said steps were going to be taken "within 24 hours" for sending people home from shops, streets and roads. Since then the military has not taken any visible action to reduce movement on the roads.

Several lawmakers, governors and other officials, particularly in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, have called on the government to introduce quarantine in their respective provinces and cities.

Many criticize the government for not locking down Qom, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, which allowed the disease to quickly spread across the country. The virus has spread to all of Iran's 31 provinces. Currently Tehran, Qom and Gilan Provinces have the highest number of infected people and death toll.

According to the latest figures published by the Ministry of Health, 611 Iranians have died of the virus and nearly 13,000 have been infected. The death toll in the 24 hours from Friday to Saturday rose by 97, the highest since the beginning of the outbreak on February 19.