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Man Seen Licking Shrine Grids Despite Coronavirus Arrested In Iran

A man disinfects the shrine of Saint Masoumeh against coronavirus in the city of Qom, February 25, 2020

A man who challenged coronavirus health warnings and to make a religious statement licked the grids at a shrine in Iran has been arrested.

Videos showing Iranians licking and kissing the grids of Shi'ite holy shrines across the country have gone viral in recent days. The videos are widely circulated on social media at a time of an ominous breakout of Covid-19 (coronavirus) in Iran.

As coronavirus fast spread in the country, religious leaders resisted quarantines and closure of religious pilgrimage sites, saying this would be an affront to their beliefs.

However, experts and ordinary Iranians called for the closure of all religious shrines in the country to prevent the spread of the virus. In the midst of the debate, some people presenting themselves as true believers began publishing videos showing kissing and licking of doors and grids of shrines to prove that such places are immune to disease.

Covid-19, publicly known as coronavirus, has so far killed dozens in Iran.

The unnamed man, arrested on February 29, was seen in a video deliberately licking the shrine of a Shiite saint in Iran's second-largest city, Mashhad, northeast of the country.

"What the detainee did was anomalous, and investigation into his case is underway," said the judiciary.

In the video, the man condemns the call to close down the shrines, and starts licking and kissing the grids to show they are harmless.

In one of the videos, a man filming himself at the Masumeh shrine in Qom says, "Stop scaring the people with coronavirus so much. Look at me; I am licking the shrine. Coronavirus has no effect at Shi'ite holy shrines."

The city of Qom has been the epicenter of Covid19 deadly breakout in Iran.

Many Twelver-Shi'ites, backed by conservative clerics, believe that holy shrines are "miracle makers" and have the divine power to cure deadly diseases.

In the meantime, the caretakers of the so-called holy shrines have so far resisted the calls to close them down.

In this video a child is being encouraged to kiss and even lick the walls of a shrine in Iran.