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With no end to pandemic in sight, Iran looks to fully reopen

Iran’s president said the country is looking to reopen under certain health guidelines.
Iranians wear protective face masks, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as they drive with the metro, in Tehran, Iran, May 20, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Ali Khara via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY - RC2FSG9AESAO

President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran will seek to reopen the country as it enters what Tehran calls the third phase of managing the coronavirus outbreak.

Rouhani, who is also the head of the country’s National Committee for Combatting the Coronavirus, said June 11, “Both domestic experts and international organizations have stated an end to coronavirus cannot be determined.” He added, “Using smart social distancing, we must enter this phase while protecting the health of people by following health instructions in the course of necessary economic and social activities.”   

Iran's first phase was essentially a nationwide lockdown that closed all but essential businesses, blocked inter-province traffic and closed schools, mosques, cinemas and other public spaces. The second phase, “smart social distancing,” involved a gradual reopening, staggered office schedules and dividing provinces and cities into zones based on the number of coronavirus infections. The color-coded zones indicate how far city officials can go in reopening their areas. 

Rouhani is dubbing the next phase “compatibility with coronavirus.”

By taking strict measures to lock down the country, Iran was able to bring down infections and virus-related deaths. However, economic pressure has forced the country to gradually reopen. In the last 24 hours, there have been 2,238 new cases and 78 deaths. Iran’s total infections are now over 180,000 and total deaths are over 8,500. 

While Iran continues to deal with the coronavirus at home, Foreign Ministry officials are dealing with tensions with the United States. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted today that the “US has tried to heighten tension with Iran and bully others to follow.” He cited the assassination of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, US “war crimes” in Yemen and the US exit from the Iran nuclear deal as examples. He added, “The US retains no right to abuse the UN and IAEA to vilify Iran.” 

Zarif’s tweet was likely a response to the International Atomic Energy Agency's report about concerns regarding access to various sites. Since the US withdrawal in 2018, Iran gradually withdrew compliance with its commitments under the nuclear deal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Iran failed to give IAEA inspectors access to two sites.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also said that there is a likelihood of more prisoner exchanges between Iran and the United States. Last week, working through Switzerland as an intermediary and former Governor Bill Richardson, US navy veteran Michael White was returned to the United States. Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi and Morad Tahbaz are currently still imprisoned in Iran. Tehran has typically sought those who have been imprisoned under sanctions violations in such swap deals. 

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