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Mosques, Sports Shutting Down Again In Iran's Capital As Pandemic Crisis Deepens

People wearing masks on the streets of Tehran. July 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic in the Iranian capital Tehran has reached critical levels, spurring health authorities to call for reintroduction of restrictions including a halt in religious gatherings. Iran's daily death toll is now hovering around 200.

Iranian authorities do not announce the death toll of the pandemic for individual cities or provinces but from what they have said it appears the capital Tehran now has a very high death toll, possibly even around 50 a day.

According to Alireza Zali, Chief of the Coronavirus Combat Headquarters of Tehran, 890 COVID patients were hospitalized in Tehran since Tuesday. Zali said the situation in the capital is "very complex "and a new approach is required for dealing with it.

This week some restrictions including closure of gyms swimming pools were reintroduced in Tehran but Zali said more activities including Friday prayers and all tests and exams should come to a halt for the time being. On Wednesday it was announced that mosques will be closed for a week in Tehran.

According to the latest official announcement on Wednesday, 199 COVID patients passed away over the last 24 hours and 2,388 new cases were diagnosed by testing, which is the official criterion for the numbers announced by the Health Ministry.

Authorities stress that people must wear masks and abide by social distancing regulations but Mayor Pirouz Hanachi has said that the capacity of the subway in Tehran has to be tripled to make social distancing possible.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki on July 8 in highly charged comments barraged top officials with criticism, accusing them of "negligence" and lack of a proper economic plan to deal with the crisis which led to the rushed lifting of restrictions on businesses. Namaki pointed out that the treasury was empty and destitute due to U.S. sanctions and people were under so much pressure that insurrection was becoming a threat.

Iran's daily coronavirus death toll that had dropped to around 50 has nearly quadrupled since May.

Official government figures show 265,000 have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and more than 13,000 have died. But many observers and local officials in Iran believe the official numbers to be too low. The situation is quite serious in several other provinces.