Updated: March 3, 2020 2:08:06 pm
Iran has recorded the highest number of coronavrius cases in the Middle East and has already seen over 50 deaths, and several prominent leaders testing positive for the virus. So after a video of a pilgrim kissing an object in a shrine in Iran went viral, the person was arrested.
In a series of tweets, Iranian journalist Masih Alinejed shared videos of the pilgrim and tweeted that the regime is “endangering the lives of Iranians and the world” by keeping the holy sites open, where pilgrims were indulging in behaviour that could spread the virus.
More videos are emerging of people licking the shrines in the city of Qom #CoronaVirus, the epicentre of the epidemic in Iran.
Iran’s authorities still adamantly refuse to close these religious sites.
The virus is wreaking havoc all over the country pic.twitter.com/veCQd6ots6
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 1, 2020
While the city of Qom is the epicentre of #CoronaVirus in Iran, authorities refuse to close down religious shrines there.
These pro-regime people are licking the shrines & encouraging people to visit them.
Iran’s authorities are endangering lives of Iranians & the world pic.twitter.com/s9o6zYhzNQ
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) February 29, 2020
The sites of Mashhad and Qom, home to several shrines of Shia imams and historical figures, have been at the centre of the outbreak with many urging the temporary shutting down of the shrines to stop the spread of the virus.
The journalist also alleged that the authorities knew about the virus but didn’t disclose it or took enough measures on time to stop the spread. She also posted videos of huge truck spraying disinfectants in some cities.
After hiding the spread of the #CoronaVirus, Iranian officials decide to indiscriminately spray the streets in certain cities.
Yet, do officials think that’s how one fights against the virus?
They’re using same anti-riot trucks they use to repress people through tear gas. pic.twitter.com/B5ulkmpjTC
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) March 2, 2020
According to the country’s Fars News Agency after the videos went viral, two people were arrested for their actions. However, the videos came after several religious leaders instigated pilgrims.
A representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Qom, cleric Mohammad Saeedi, was quoted as saying, “We consider this holy shrine to be a place of healing. That means people should come here to heal from spiritual and physical diseases.”
Iran’s health ministry on Sunday raised the nationwide death toll from the new coronavirus to 54 as the number of confirmed infected cases jumped overnight by more than half to 978 people.
The ministry’s spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said new cases were confirmed in a number of cities, including Mashhad, which is home to Iran’s most important Shiite shrine that attracts pilgrims from across the region. Calls by Iran’s civilian government to clerics to close such shrines to to the public have not been uniformly followed. The shrine in Mashhad is among those that have remained open.
The virus has infected more than 86,000 people worldwide and caused more than 2,900 deaths since emerging in China. Iran has the world’s highest death toll outside of China. Although public transports like buses and metros continue to operate, the authorities said they are regularly disinfecting it to stop the spread.
[with inputs from AP]
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