In the absence of rigid preventive measures, like mandatory quarantine policies or closing the roads, millions of Iranians refused to stay home and hit the roads for new year’s trips, causing officials to fear another wave of COVID-19 infections across the country.
Pleas by the Iranian government for citizens to stay at home at the start of the country’s new year have been widely ignored, with more than 1.2 million people taking to the roads, according to police.
The Novel coronavirus has turned the first day of the spring into a bittersweet occasion for Iranians, who celebrate it as the beginning of Norouz, the Persian New Year.
Latest figures published on Friday showed Iran had recorded 19,644 cases of infection and 1,433 deaths. There were 1,237 new infections in the past 24 hours and 149 new deaths. The number of new infections is a record high for a single day, and the number of deaths is the same as the day before, according to The Guardian.
President Hassan Rouhani directed the minister of interior affairs on Friday to shut all shopping malls and markets until April 3.
Every layer of Iranian society – from clerical to army, as well as local government – had urged people to stay at home for the new year, a time when Iranians traditionally travel to see friends and family and celebrate the coming of spring.
“It is tough to see people on the streets in the city or on their ways to Norouz trips. I feel like our lives don’t matter even to ourselves,” Mehdi, 19, a vender selling home-sewn masks in Tehran, told ABC News.
“The only way to prevent this is to punish those who go on unnecessary travels. But I don’t know if that’s possible in Iran,” he added.
Norouz celebrations have made it hard to maintain control of the disease, especially with the country already suffering from severe economic and banking sanctions.
Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s minister of communication technology, asked people on Thursday to avoid traveling for the holiday.
“Tonight the traffic load of the fixed network internet decreased while that of the mobile network went up dramatically setting an unprecedented record in Iran,” Azari Jahromi tweeted. “It has a simple meaning: the journeys have begun. The only cure to corona is supporting each other. Our trip endangers others.”