Iranian President Implements Ban on Weddings and Large Gatherings to Stop Coronavirus Spread

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for a nationwide halt on large gatherings like weddings and wakes in order to curb the rise in coronavirus infections.

Police officials in Tehran, Iran's capital, announced the closure of venues that hold weddings and funeral ceremonies until further notice, Reuters reported Saturday. The move comes as Iran's COVID-19 death toll increased by 188 people in the past 24 hours, totaling 12,635 people who have died from coronavirus in the Middle East nation since March. The Iranian government had been slowly relaxing lockdown measures since mid-April, but a recent spike in the country's infection rate has prompted new measures.

"We must ban ceremonies and gatherings all over the country, whether it be wakes, weddings or parties," Rouhani announced in state television Saturday. "The easiest option is to shut down everything. But then people will pour into the streets because of hunger and unemployment."

"Now is not the time for festivals or seminars," he added, saying that university entrance exams should be suspended.

Some Iranian leaders had previously used their decreasing coronavirus data, particularly in comparison to the United States, to criticize President Donald Trump and others who many observers said botched the response to the pandemic.

Iran has had 255,117 total coronavirus infections, according to Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari. By contrast, the U.S. has had over 3.2 million total coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University's tracker.

Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, once again used Twitter to take a swipe at Trump and other U.S. leaders who have expressed opposition to the wearing of masks in public spaces. He shared a photograph on social media of him wearing a mask during a discussion with other government leaders in Tehran.

"I definitely wear a mask in meetings, but I see that some of the officials are not using masks. When you are one of the officials and you don't wear a mask in assemblies or in the public, this negativity affects people's behavior. They become encouraged to not wear masks either," Khamenei tweeted on July 1.

Newsweek reached out to Iranian diplomats based in Washington or additional remarks Saturday morning.

Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has repeatedly criticized President Trump on Twitter for leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, which began under former President Barack Obama in 2015.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: President of Iran Hassan Rouhani addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters on September 25, 2019 in New York City. World leaders from across the globe are gathered at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, amid crises ranging from climate change to possible conflict between Iran and the United States. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Getty