COVID19: Iran to open businesses, border crossing to imports from Turkey as government weighs its options

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Aljazeera / Financial Tribune – By order of the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, business will begin to reopen in Iran now, as the country finds itself unable to sustain a lockdownas result of the ravaging coronavirus.

Iran, the Middle East's worst-affected country, has been hit hard by COVID-19 with nearly 70,000 confirmed cases and more than 4,000 deaths.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said US sanctions on Iran have made it impossible for the government to even buy medicines.

However, Sari Su border crossing connecting Iran’s West Azarbaijan Province to Turkey will be used as a new route for trade between the two countries as of Friday, after Bazargan border crossing, in the same province, was closed in March due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID 19.

The decision was announced by the spokesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration on Tuesday.

“Ever since the spread of the virus, trucks carrying pharmaceuticals and health products could enter the country through Sari Su. But now other goods can undertake transshipment from this checkpoint. Yet, up until now, no decision has been made for resuming truck commutes from Bazargan border,” Rouhollah Latifi was also quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

The official noted that for now, only 15 trucks can enter the border daily, which is “a step forward under the circumstances”.

Sari Su and Bazargan border crossings are one kilometer apart, both located in the northwestern province of West Azarbaijan’s Maku County.

Earlier, Latifi said trade with Turkey is underway via the railroad border of Razi in West Azarbaijan Province.

The Iranian administration's spokesperson, Ali Rabiei, says the coronavirus outbreak has adversely affected the employment situation of 7.3 million Iranians.

In a commentary he wrote for the semi-official news agency ISNA on Saturday April 11, Rabiei said that the outbreak has affected 3.3 million full-time employees and 4 million self-employed workers in Iran.

Rabiei said over 7 million Iranians either lost their jobs or their employment has been temporarily suspended or downgraded. Although he did not say how many people exactly have lost their jobs.

In early April, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society said it was planning to help two million people who have lost their job to COVID-19.

On April 7, the Majles Research Center had warned the Rouhani administration about possible "protests" and "riots" that might break out as a result of the economic impact of the outbreak.

Rabiei wrote that the suspension of production at 1.5 million businesses will have long-lasting consequences for Iran's economy.

In his commentary Rabiei referred to a recent poll in which some 35 percent of those who took part said they are already unable to make ends meet and that they are losing their ability to survive in the face of increasing economic hardships.

The latest number of COVID-19 cases in Iran has surpassed 70,000, and with 125 new deaths during the past day, the official death toll has soared to 4,357, according to the country's heath ministry.

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