Iran has reopened its major Shia Muslim shrines – including those of Imam Reza in Mashhad and Hazrat Masumeh in Qom – two months after they were closed to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Worshippers and pilgrims will be allowed to access courtyards, but not porticoes and other covered areas. They will also be required comply with guidelines on hygiene and social distancing. The shrines will open one hour after dawn and close one hour before sunset, rather than stay open around the clock.
At the Shah Abdol Azim shrine in Tehran on Monday morning, visitors had to wear a mask, walk through a disinfection tunnel, and have their temperature checked, according to AFP news agency.
Health experts expressed alarm when the authorities did not close the shrines immediately after Qom emerged as the epicentre of Iran’s Covid-19 outbreak in mid-February.
The government has reported more than 135,000 cases of the disease and 7,400 deaths, although the actual figures are believed to be far higher.