Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani says mosques will reopen in 132 regions designated as white under a color-coded system after being consistently free of the new coronavirus.
Iran’s Health Ministry has divided the country into white, yellow and red areas based on the number of infections and deaths.
“Mosques will reopen in 132 towns, which were decided in today’s session as white and low risk, from tomorrow,” Rouhani told a meeting of the National Headquarters for Managing and Fighting the Coronavirus in Tehran on Sunday.
“Friday prayers will also resume in those areas and the mosques that respect the health protocols,” he added.
Iran has already lifted a ban on inter-city trips and malls, with large shopping centers resuming activities. The Health Ministry said Saturday the rate of infections has started a “gradual” downward trend.
The death toll from the outbreak rose by 47 over the past 24 hours to 6,203, Iran’s lowest in more than a month, ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpour said on Sunday.
Iran has a total of 97,424 cases of the coronavirus, he said, adding 78,422 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital so far.
President Rouhani said 83 percent of Iranians have observed the health protocols.
As many as 78 million people were screened for the COVID-19 symptoms in the first phase of a nationwide program and 30 million in the second phase, he said.
According to the president, the national coronavirus committee is also considering reopening schools in low-risk areas by May 16 to allow for a month of classes before exams are held.
“However, we will continue to review the situation,” the president said with a note of caution.
Iran is one of the Middle Eastern countries hardest hit by the outbreak. Illegal US sanctions have hampered the virus fight in the country, which reported its first COVID-19 infection cases in late February.
The United States slapped new sanctions on the Islamic Republic on Friday despite claiming to be ready to help Iran with the coronavirus.
President Rouhani has said the US offer to help Iran in its virus fight is “one of the biggest lies in history”.