TEHRAN (Reuters) - Concealing one’s COVID-19 infection should carry the severest penalty, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday in announcing new measures to stem a rapid rise in cases.
“Anyone who feels ill and it’s clear to them that they are ill, must not hide their illness,” Rouhani said in televised remarks. Otherwise, he added, they will be committing “the highest offense” that will demand “the highest punishment”.
Those who do not wear masks in public will be fined, said Rouhani, adding the amount of fines and other penalties will be determined at the next meeting of the government-run Coronavirus Taskforce.
Government employees who fail to observe regulations face measures ranging from warnings to their one-year suspension from their posts. And government offices where people go for services cannot serve people who do not observe health protocols, such as wearing masks.
Businesses that flout regulations can face closure.
Rouhani said penalties would be most severe in the capital Tehran, where in recent weeks the daily death toll from the coronavirus has been more than 100 compared with less than 10 at the end of the first wave of the virus earlier this year, according to Alireza Zali, head of the Tehran Coronavirus Taskforce.
Zali warned in an interview on state television that if the spread of the epidemic continues at the current rate in Tehran, there would be a three- to five-fold increase in cases and a rise in the fatality rate to between 1.5% and 3%.
He recommended a one-week closure of institutions including schools and universities, seminaries, libraries, mosques, museums, theaters and hair salons.
Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus rose by 179 on Saturday to 26,746, and identified cases by 3,523 to 468,119, health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV.