Iran reopens "low-risk" businesses in bid to protect its sanctions-hit economy, while overall toll in Middle East's worst-hit country climbs to 4,357.

Iranian women, wearing personal protective equipment, look at a cell phone at a shop in Mashhad on April 11, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Iranian women, wearing personal protective equipment, look at a cell phone at a shop in Mashhad on April 11, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)

Iran reported 125 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, raising the overall toll in the Middle East's worst-hit country to 4,357, even as it reopened "low-risk" businesses on Saturday across the country. 

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a news conference that 1,837 new infections had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking the total to 70,029.

Iran has carried out 251,703 tests for the virus so far, he added.

Of those admitted to hospital, 41,947 have recovered and been discharged, while 3,987 are in a critical condition.

Don't 'ignore health protocols'

The update came as Iran started reopening "low-risk" businesses in a bid to protect its sanctions-hit economy.

President Hassan Rouhani urged Iranians to respect health protocols to guard against the new coronavirus as "low-risk" economic activities resumed in most of the country. 

So-called low-risk businesses will resume across the country from Saturday with the exception of the capital Tehran, where they will restart from April 18. 

Iran is the Middle Eastern country worst-affected by the highly infectious Covid-19 respiratory disease.

"Easing restrictions does not mean ignoring health protocols ... social distancing and other health protocols should be respected seriously by people," Rouhani was quoted as saying.

Impacts of long-term lockdown

The Islamic republic has been struggling to curb the spread of the infection but the government is also concerned that measures to limit public life to contain the virus could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.

Iran's government spokesman Ali Rabeie said "in case of long-term shutdown, some four million people could be out of work", IRNA reported.

"Four million non-state employees face stoppage or reduction in activities, reduction of salaries and expulsion."

Health authorities have repeatedly complained that many Iranians ignored appeals to stay at home, warning about a second wave of the outbreak in Iran, where the death toll had reached 4,357 with 70,029 infected cases.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies