DUBAI — Iran’s health minister pleaded with people Thursday not to travel during the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, a holy fasting month during which the number of new coronavirus cases in the country has soared.
Iran has been the worst-hit country in the Middle East, with some of the first cases surfacing outside China and reports of thousands of new infections every day in March. The outbreak appeared to be slowly coming under control until lockdown measures were eased with the start of Ramadan. The numbers of new cases then soared, going from a low of just 800 a day on May 2 to 2,392 new cases on Thursday.
The country now appears to be experiencing a second wave of infections. The same phenomenon has been witnessed elsewhere in the Middle East, where the easing of restrictions during lockdown brought a vast increase in the number of cases.
“I am urging you not to travel during the Eid. Definitely, such trips mean new cases of infection,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on state television, according to Reuters. “People should not travel to and from those high-risk red areas,” he said, referring to the color coding system used to mark areas with many cases.
On Wednesday, however, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted that after three months of battling the virus, the country was on the verge of containing it. “We have been advancing step by step without a retreat. In general, we’ve made good progress in the face of this dangerous virus,” he said during a cabinet meeting.
In fact, many areas of the country are only lightly affected, with no deaths reported over the last 24 hours in 10 provinces. But with 129,341 total infections and 7,249 deaths as of Thursday, Iran remains the worst-hit country in the region. According to Deputy Health Minister Qassem Janbabaei, 10,000 Iranian health workers have been infected by the virus, the Associated Press reported.