More than 35,000 students across Iran have called for authorities to close universities until after the end of the Norooz holidays to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Following reports about the closure of some schools and universities across the country, groups of students from Urmia, Al-Zahra, Shariati universities and the Medical Sciences Universities, have collected more than 35,000 signatures from students across the country in support of the move. Writing to the country’s science and health ministers and to the dean of Azad University, the students have urged the officials to take action to protect them from contracting the virus.

The students argue that staying in crowded dormitories could mean the virus will spread more quickly and easily, and say that returning to their hometowns immediately rather than waiting another two weeks is the best way of offering them protection.

"Dear Dr. Mansour Gholami, Minister of Science, Research, and Technology, Dear Dr. Saeed Nemaki, Honorable Minister of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education, Dear Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Tehrani, Honorable President of the Islamic Azad University, as you know, the coronavirus is widespread in many provinces of the country,” the letter reads. “It is feared that the disease will spread quickly and cause irreparable damage. You know very well that the chance for contagious diseases to spread in student dormitories is high, because universities are such busy places, and also because many students mostly use public transport to get to the campus. Considering the approaching Norooz holidays and the return of many students to their cities, the spread of the virus is likely to intensify.

"We, the signatories of this letter, criticize the inadequate attention of higher education authorities have paid to the issues we have raised, and urge them to close universities across the country until after Norooz. Students’ health is at risk and if we become infected by the coronavirus, the responsibility will be on the shoulders of the country's higher education authorities."

Speaking to the media, health minister Saeed Namaki said the subject was raised in a recent meeting about the virus, at which the first vice president was present, but a decision had not yet been reached. 


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