Tehran shuts down cultural centers again as coronavirus outbreak grows

October 4, 2020 - 18:7

TEHRAN – The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has shut down all art and cultural centers across Tehran again for one week following an increase in the number of people infected with COVID-19.

The lockdown includes all the public and gathering places such as the movie theaters, libraries, and art and music institutes, the Coronavirus Combat and Prevention Headquarters in Tehran announced on Sunday.

The theater halls will also be closed for one week, the Dramatic Arts Center has announced.

The closure will be observed for one week but might be extended if the incidence of new cases does not slow down. 

In August, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Seyyed Abbas Salehi said that the coronavirus outbreak in Iran has caused an estimated loss of over 10,000 billion rials (about $45.5 million, based on the free-market rate) in the art and culture sectors by April 19, the end of the first month of the Iranian calendar year.

“For example, the Tehran International Book Fair had an estimated sale of 1200 to 1300 billion rials (about $5.5 to $6 million) last year. In the film industry, the sale was about 3 trillion rials (over $13.6 million),” He said.

However, the book fair was canceled this year, and Iranian movie theaters have mostly been closed over the past six months due to the pandemic.

Salehi said, “We have also experienced a big loss in visual arts, music and theater, that is, about 120 theater halls have been closed just in Tehran. The same has been true in other cities.” 
 
He added that insurance for the members of the Art Credit Fund, which was 350 billion rials (about $1.6 million), has been paid, and, based on an enactment approved by the Coronavirus Combat and Prevention Headquarters, those interested applicants can register for a facility.

The culture minister further noted that a sum of 120 billion rials (about $5.5 million) will be paid to members of the Art Credit Fund as livelihood assistance, while 2000 billion rials (over $9 million) will also be paid as loans to the artists and owners of cultural venues.

The ministry canceled all art, cultural and cinematic events across the country in February in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The Association of Iranian Theater Owners asked President Hassan Rouhani to lift the coronavirus restriction on cinemas, calling for reopening of the theaters across the country based on the health protocols during the pandemic on May 20.

Later, the Cinema Organization of Iran announced that the movie theaters in the so-called “white areas” or regions with no coronavirus hospitalizations in the past two weeks would be allowed to reopen, while the protocols issued by the Coronavirus Control Operations Headquarters for the theaters must be observed.

The cinemagoers were asked to observe social distancing, while the employees were asked to wear face masks and plastic gloves.

In late June, all movie theaters resumed activities after a four-month-long closure, but were forced to close once again due to a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths.

Photo: An individual looks at the posters of the movies on screen in a movie theater in Tehran on July 8, 2020 after theaters resumed activities in the pandemic. (ISNA/Parisa Behzadi)

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