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The New Arab Staff

Iran launches 'corona police' to tackle lockdown rebels, amid rising Covid-19 death toll

Thousands of people have died from Covid-19 in Iran [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 June, 2020

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A police force designed to keep citizens off the streets in Iran's 'red zone' - Abadan City - has been launched, as the Covid-19 toll continues to rise.
Iran has launched an "unprecedented" security apparatus to tackle the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, as the toll from the virus continued to rise months after the disease was first detected.

The "corona police" force is designed to contain the outbreak, governor of Iran's Abadan city, Zain-ul-Abideen Mousavi said. 

The unit has been given powers to arrest and quarantine individuals in public who have tested positive for Covid-19, the official said.

They will then stand trial for failing to abide by lockdown measures while infected with coronavirus. 

A committee combining a range of skilled workers, including students, doctors and other police personnel, will supervise the force and visit patients at home, the official added.

Iran's Abadan city is situated in the Khuzetan region, which has for weeks been classified as a red zone amid the coronavirus outbreak. Positive infections have for the past month been increasing in the region, with the ministry of health blaming citizens for a lack of adherence to lockdown guidelines.

On Monday, Iran urged its citizens to wear masks in public as it announced another 70 deaths from the novel coronavirus and 2,043 new cases of infection.

"Everybody must wear masks when attending places like stores or any other place where it is not possible to observe social distancing carefully," health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on state television.

Since announcing its first cases in the Shia holy city of Qom in February, Iran has struggled to contain what quickly became the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of the Covid-19 illness.

The country has confirmed 173,832 cases of Covid-19, as well as 8,351 deaths nationwide.

Last week, President Hassan Rouhani warned Iranians to prepare to live with the novel coronavirus "for a long time" even though authorities have started to gradually roll back restrictions imposed to curb the outbreak.

People should not assume that "this disease will be eliminated in 15 days or a month: we must therefore follow the instructions for a long time", Rouhani said.

"We must end all gatherings, be it marriage, mourning, or family visits, until told otherwise by the health minister," he added.

Authorities have progressively lifted restrictions imposed to tackle the virus, and have activity has almost returned to normal in most of the country's 31 provinces.

Infection figures reached a low in early May and the lack of observance of social distancing measures have authorities worried about a new rise in cases.

According to Rouhani, there is no "second path" for Iran and economic activity across the country must continue.

He announced a further relaxation of restrictions with travel agencies set to resume local tours as of 13 June. Cinemas and concerts will be reopening with only half of venue capacity from 21 June.

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