Coronavirus cases rise in Iran as millions travel during holiday

April 2, 2021 - 21:5

TEHRAN – The number of coronavirus cases has been rising in Iran after millions traveled across the country during the Noruz holiday, which officially began on March 20.

The Islamic Republic reported its highest number of daily coronavirus infections in more than three months period after millions challenged government guidelines and traveled during the two-week holiday.

“More than 11,700 new coronavirus cases were detected in the country during the past 24 hours,” the Health Ministry’s spokeswoman, Sima Lari, announced on Thursday. She further put the death toll from COVID-19 in Iran at 62,759, adding “The disease has taken the lives of 94 patients over the past 24 hours.”

According to official data, over 60,300 people have died from the virus across the country since the start of the pandemic a year ago. More than 1,750,000 cases have been reported.

Before Noruz, health officials voiced concerns about the fourth COVID wave due to the traditional travels, mostly to visit family and loved ones.

Authorities had urged people to limit travel and in-person visits, saying that travels during the Noruz festival could lead to another wave of infections across the country.

Before Noruz, President Hassan Rouhani declared new travel bans for cities situated in the “red” and “orange” zones to combat the new COVID-19 variant.

Rouhani called on people to avoid traveling during the Iranian New Year holidays to help contain the spread of coronavirus. He said it would be forbidden to make trips to cities marked as “red” and “orange” in terms of the prevalence of COVID-19.

“We request people to avoid traveling during Noruz holidays for the sake of their own health… It will be forbidden to travel to red and orange towns and cities,” he said. “No one should make any plans to travel to these cities,” he stressed.

The most dangerous areas were concentrated in the southwest of the country, particularly in Khuzestan province.

The Ministry of Health has classified districts based on the rate of coronavirus infections with red color indicating high risk, orange meaning medium, while yellow implied low risk and blue being the least.

According to the deputy tourism minister Vali Teymouri, the provinces of Mazandaran, Gilan, and Khorasan Razavi were named top-three travel destinations during the Noruz vacations.

On Tuesday evening, Teymouri announced that some 650,000 people have traveled in Iran since the beginning of the new year holidays, adding “Over 1.8 million overnight stays have been registered so far in the official accommodation centers across the country.”

Prior to the new year holiday, Teymouri announced that people, who would go on a trip during the Noruz, would be strictly supervised by a committee of travel services coordination. “The committee, which includes members from the tourism and health ministries as well as the police personnel, will monitor the implementation of the health protocols by the tourists and travelers during the holiday.” 

In February, the tourism minister, Ali-Asghar Mounesan said: “Noruz ceremonies and trips, if practiced under health protocols, could be beneficial for the revival of the tourism industry and handicrafts, which have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic in many provinces.”

Iranians traditionally make hundreds of thousands of domestic trips during the New Year holidays, when most businesses and workplaces are closed, as are schools. The ancient celebration of the vernal equinox marks the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere; the moment when the length of day and night are almost equal.