Authorities in Iran banned vehicular traffic to and from the cities of Tehran, Karaj, Mashhad, Esfahan, and Urmia from 2359 Oct. 14-1200 Oct. 18 in efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The travel restrictions only apply to private vehicles; public transportation, such as buses and planes, will continue to operate. Intracity travel within the affected cities is permitted.
Authorities have extended restrictions in Tehran Province through at least Oct. 16 to combat COVID-19 activity. Educational institutions, places of worship, libraries, museums, theaters, gyms, cafes, reception halls, zoos, swimming pools, and hair salons remain closed during this period. All social gatherings, including Friday prayers, are also prohibited. Additionally, authorities in Tehran Province made the wearing of facemasks mandatory in public from Oct. 10. Individuals who violate the mask mandate will be subject to fines.
Similar closures and restrictions are in place throughout most of the country, especially in provinces with high COVID-19 rates. The Ministry of Health has divided the country into "white," "yellow," and "red" zones depending on the COVID-19 fatality rate and extent of the outbreak, with white being the lowest threat. Zones with more than three COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population are categorized as red, while white zones have less than one. As of Oct. 11, authorities have classified 26 of the country's 31 provinces as red.
Authorities had previously eased the following COVID-19-related restrictions:
- Restaurants reopened nationwide May 26. Restaurants can accept customers but must continue to abide by safe distancing protocols.
- Officials lifted the ban on intercity travel April 20.
- Shopping malls and bazaars reopened April 20.
- Government offices resumed work April 11.
Iranian authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.
Background and Analysis
The measures taken by Iran correspond with similar actions taken by other governments globally in response to the spread of COVID-19, a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all business appointments and travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.
Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.