News Digest: Week of May 4

May 4

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 98,647 cases, including 6,277 deaths from COVID-19. Iran reopened mosques in 132 cites and towns deemed “white” zones, which signaled that they had consistently been free of new COVID-19 cases. Worshippers were required to wear masks and gloves and could only spend half an hour in the mosque.

 

Nuclear: Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed U.S. plans to extend the U.N. Security Council arms embargo on Tehran before it expires on October 18. “Iran is not seeking to exit the 2015 nuclear deal with six powers ... America’s move is illegitimate and our reaction will be proportionate,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi. The embargo was part of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the 2015 nuclear deal.

Health: Hossein Erfani, the director of the Contagious Disease Department at Iran’s Ministry of Health, warned that the country would likely experience a second wave of coronavirus cases in autumn. “We predict that after a relative containment of the disease and its decline through the month of Khordad (May 21 – June 20), sporadic cases of the disease would occur in the society, but it will not be fully eradicated,” Erfani said.

Health/Religion: Hojjatoleslam Ali Noori, the Deputy head of the Policy-Making Council of Iranian Friday Prayer Leaders, announced that Friday prayers would be held in 157 cities after a two-month hiatus. Prayer leaders vowed to respect guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.

Economy: Iranian lawmakers approved a bill to slash four zeroes from the national currency. The value of the current currency, the rial, has declined steadily since the 1979 revolution, but the fallout from U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated the trend. The bill will also change the national currency from the rial to the toman. Each toman will have a value of 10,000 rials under the new system. “Eliminating the four zeros is a necessary action to simplify financial transactions,” said government spokesman Ali Rabiei.

 

May 5

Health: Iran recorded 99,970 cases and 6,340 deaths from coronavirus. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour warned that Iran could experience a second and third peak of COVID-19 infections in the summer and fall.

Economy/Health: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on the United States to lift sanctions to help Iran fight its COVID-19 outbreak. “If the Americans are honest amid the conditions caused by the coronavirus and intend to take a measure (in Iran’s favor), the only way is for them to end the illegal sanctions on Iran,” Rouhani said in a phone call with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo.

Health/Aviation: Iran’s Mahan Air spread COVID-19 cases into Iraq and Lebanon by ignoring travel and safety restrictions, according to a BBC report. “An investigation by BBC News Arabic has analysed flight tracking data and open source footage which shows how Iran's largest airline - Mahan Air - continued to fly while government flight bans were in place, and contributed to the spread of Covid-19 in the Middle East,” the report said. The government-owned airline was first sanctioned by the United States in July 2018.

 

May 6

Health: Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 101,650 cases, including 6,418 deaths from COVID-19. Health Ministry spokesman Jahanpour explained that the rise in daily cases was due to relaxed social distancing measures as Iran began to reopen.

Health: The Ministry of Health reported that 15 out of the country’s 31 provinces were experiencing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. The government report noted that several tourist destinations—Isfahan, Gilan and Qom—had experienced a second wave of the virus after the government lifted travel restrictions last month.

 

 

Updated