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Tehran Public Transport To Be Suspended Amid Confusion Over Restrictions

A member of Iranian red crescents checks bus passengers for possible coronavirus Covid 19 symptoms, as police blocked Tehran to Alborz highway to check every car following order by Iranian government, March 26, 2020

The Coronavirus Control Task Force in Tehran has decided to suspend public transport in the Iranian capital, amid chaos and confusion about the recent restrictions announced by the government.

The decision made on Friday March 27 which covers all subway and bus services in Tehran was announced hours after Tehran City Council Chairman Mohsen Hashemi called on state officials in a tweet to make their final decision about public transport in the capital.

Hashemi wrote that "Public transport should be stopped or restricted to an emergency network if the decision to control the coronavirus outbreak is serious."

Hashemi said that the air condition system in the Tehran subway circulates air in a closed circuit increasing the chance of contagion if anyone carrying the virus is on board.

Based on the task force's ratification all vehicular transport out of Tehran will be banned except for vehicles carrying food, medicine and perishable goods.

However, it is not yet clear when the new public transport restrictions will be implemented.

Traffic and transportation officials in Shiraz in Fars Province had also called for similar restrictions in a bid to slow down the outbreak.

Meanwhile, Following the announcement made by President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday about launching strict disease control and prevention measures on Friday, reports from Iran say there is widespread confusion among officials and the police force about travel control regulations.

A temporary 2,000-bed medical facility for COVID-19 coronavirus patients set up by the Iranian army at the international exhibition center in northern Tehran, March 26, 2020
A temporary 2,000-bed medical facility for COVID-19 coronavirus patients set up by the Iranian army at the international exhibition center in northern Tehran, March 26, 2020

The confusion starts when various officials announce exceptions to the rules for various reasons.

The governor of Tehran, Anushirvan Mohseni Bandpay, said on Friday, that traffic restrictions will not be in place on Tuesday March 31 and Wednesday April 1, possibly because he anticipated heavy traffic as the Iranian New Year holidays end and the first of April is the day most Iranians go out of town to spend the last day of Nowruz holidays outdoors.

Earlier, a deputy governor had said that there is a ban on driving on Tuesday and Wednesday. Bandpay said the announcement was meant to ban outdoor gatherings in parks and natural resorts during the two days.

At the same time, Iran's Road Police Chief has announced that the ban on arrivals in all Iranian cities does not apply to the cities in the province of Tehran and the neighboring province of Alborz.

This was also against an earlier decision that would allow only residents to enter every province and city based on their ID cards, vehicle registration and car insurance.

In the meantime, the Tehran-Qom highway toll gate that was closed earlier in the week to incoming traffic from Tehran, has reportedly been opened once again on Friday. Latest reports say police officers have left the gate and there is no restriction on traffic.

Announcing the cancellation of the ban on people exiting their homes from Friday, Traffic Police Chief Taymour Hosseini said people may not exit the cities, adding however that "The situation in Tehran and Alborz provinces is different and we cannot impose traffic restriction in those provinces."

Meanwhile Adel Mesdaghi, a senior transportation official in Tehran said that the Coronavirus Control Task Force has decided that no vehicle should be allowed to leave Tehran until further notice.

The Traffic Police Chief says that the drivers of vehicles violating the regulations will be fined up to five million rials [roughly $35 dollars] and their vehicles will be detained for a month.

The contradictions in these decisions indicate that It appears the restrictions termed by officials as "social distancing" has created problems in the area of planning and caused confusion among the officials and the people.