TEHRAN: Iran said on Sunday it will allow "low-risk" economic activities to resume from April 11 as its daily coronavirus infection rates slowed for a fifth straight day.
"Restarting these activities does not mean we have abandoned the principle of staying at home," President Hassan Rouhani said at a meeting of Iran's anti-coronavirus task force.
The president, whose country has been battered by US economic sanctions, did not specify what qualified as "low risk" activities, but said bans would remain on schools and large gatherings.
A "gradual" return of "low-risk" economic activity will be permitted from next Saturday in the provinces and from April 18 in Tehran, Rouhani said.
The novel coronavirus pandemic claimed another 151 lives over the past 24 hours in Iran, raising the Islamic republic's declared death toll to 3,603, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said on Sunday at his daily press briefing.
He also reported 2,483 new cases of Covid-19 infection, the fifth straight day of declining numbers, compared to a record number of 3,111 infections on March 31.
Iran, the Middle East country worst affected by the pandemic, which originated in China, has reported 58,226 infections, a figure which some foreign experts suspect is an underestimate.
After resisting a lockdown or quarantine measures, Iran imposed an intercity travel ban late last month.
Saturday should have marked a return to regular activity in Iran after a two-week holiday for the Persian New Year.
Jahanpour at his briefing criticised "those who think that the situation is normal now that the holidays are over, because it is not normal".
While some people in Tehran said they were reassured by the government's response, others remained fearful.
"There have been a lot of people out on the streets the last two days. It's terrifying," a housewife, Zohreh, said.
But Zahra Zanjani, another housewife, said she believed the situation was under control.
"People are very respectful" of instructions from authorities, "and are taking great care," she said.
A retiree named Amir worried about the economic impact of the pandemic.
"People still have expenses to pay," he said. "They can't stay at home. The government needs to support them financially."
In Isfahan, Iran's third largest city and tourism capital, 35-year-old teacher Samira said large numbers of people were ignoring advice to stay home.
"I passed by two parks and saw 25 to 30 people in each," she said.
"Public gardens are supposed to remain closed."