“Coronavirus can score against us at the 90th minute from the corner of the field. What made it possible for the virus to score against us was our failure to take it seriously.”

Health minister Saeed Namaki used a football metaphor to plead with the people of Iran, urging them not to travel during the forthcoming religious holidays. “I beg the people not to treat the situation as though it is normal,” he said during a press conference on August 25. “Now that their children’s university entrance exams are over, I beg them not to pack their bags again and set out for the road. We are still dealing with numerous problems in Mazandaran province [a favorite tourist destination].” In response to a recent comment made by a tourist official who downplayed the role travel could play in spreading the virus, he said: “If traveling plays no role in spreading the epidemic, then how did the Wuhan virus spread from China?”

During the Islamic lunar calendar month of Muharram, which this year started on August 20, Shias mourn the death and martyrdom of Imam Hossein, the third Shia Imam, in 680 AD. The holy Muharram religious holidays, during which people tend to travel widely across the country, start on August 26 and last until August 29. This year the holidays coincided with the summer season and came after nationwide university exams took place, so health officials have expressed concern that families will want to travel even more than usual. 

Among others, Abbas Mousavi, the president of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, tried to discourage travel: “Considering that Mazandaran is not providing any services to travelers, they must not expect a pleasant travel experience. People must hold Muharram ceremonies in the cities where they live and avoid traveling to Mazandaran.”

In addition to holiday travels, the reopening of schools and universities has also dominated the agendas of many Iranian officials. In general, the plan is for schools to be divided into three categories, depending on whether they are located in a red zone, a yellow zone or a white zone. Students will attend classes remotely, in person or a combination of the two.

“On September 5, schools will reopen but students will be told how classes will run depending on conditions in their areas after the schools open,” said education minister Mohsen Haji-Mirzaei in a radio interview.

Ali Akbar Haghdoost, a deputy health minister and the head of the National Coronavirus Taskforce’s Epidemiology Committee, denied rumors that universities would not reopen and emphasized that they would begin to reopen on September 5. University classes, he said in a teleconference with the health minister, “will be remote in some cities and a combination of remote and in-person in other cities. Most of those who have passed the university entrance exams will start their classes in February and we will try to arrange it so that the students who are nearing graduation will graduate sooner. This is one way of making the universities less crowded.”

Reza Nejati, the spokesman for the Khuzestan Coronavirus Taskforce, said it was imperative to clarify how alert levels were described and classified in order to ensure the public’s safety. “The color-coding of the states of alert for coronavirus must be explained to people so that they do not imagine that ‘white’ means the epidemic has been uprooted,” he explained. “When we say the situation is red, people conclude that the epidemic is still there. But when we say the situation is white, they think it is over. This is not true because color-coding only identifies the number of infections per each 100,000 of the population and the increase or the decrease of a couple of cases can change the color of a city. So the color-coding of the level of the epidemic must not make people think the danger of coronavirus is over, because the danger still exists.”

In her daily briefing for August 25, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari said that currently 14 provinces are in a red state of alert and 16 provinces are in an orange state:

- Red: Tehran, Mazandaran, Gilan, Qom, Isfahan, Razavi Khorasan, East Azerbaijan, Kerman, North Khorasan, Semnan, Yazd, Zanjan and Qazvin

- Orange: West Azerbaijan, Alborz, Fars, Lorestan, Hormozgan, Ardabil, Bushehr, Kermanshah, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, South Khorasan, Markazi, Ilam, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Golestan and Khuzestan.

Two new provinces on the red list for August 25, Qazvin and Zanjan, were on the orange list the day before. “Currently 117 cities are in a red state of alert and 110 are in an orange state,” added Dr. Lari.

Dr. Lari also announced the official coronavirus statistics for the last 24 hours:

- New confirmed coronavirus cases: 2,213

- New hospitalizations: 1,059

- Total cases since the outbreak: 363,363

- Total coronavirus tests conducted in Iran: 3,088,313

- Total recovered from coronavirus: 313,058

- New fatalities: 125

- Total death toll since the outbreak: 20,901

Dr. Lari also reported that 3,839 hospitalized Covid-19 patients are in a critical condition.

She said the rate of infections and fatalities is on a downward trend across the country.

However, in one province alone, Isfahan, the number of hospitalizations has increased from around 800 to over 900 in the last few days and provincial health officials say the trend of infections is getting worse. Furthermore, Isfahan is not the only province where the situation is worsening.


This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology

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