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Coronavirus: Iran reopens key shrines after two-month closure

Visitors must wear masks, maintain social distancing and bring their own prayer mats, books and other accessories
Crowds gather outside the closed holy shrine of Fatima Masumeh in Qom on 16 March (AFP)

Iran on Monday reopened major Shia Muslim shrines across the Islamic republic, more than two months after they had been closed in the Middle Eastern country worst hit by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

At Tehran's Shah Abdol-Azim shrine, worshippers had to wear a mask, walk through a disinfection tunnel and have their temperature checked as they were allowed in from the early morning, according to an AFP reporter.

The Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, northeast Iran, and the Fatima Masumeh shrine and Jamkaran mosque in the holy city of Qom, also reopened while observing health protocols, state news agency IRNA reported.

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The shrines have been allowed to open starting from an hour after dawn until an hour before dusk.

State television showed worshippers crying and running towards the Imam Reza shrine as they were guided by attendants.

In a statement on its website, the shrine said visitors must observe health requirements such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, and bring their own prayer mats, books and other accessories.

Shrines were closed alongside schools, universities and all non-vital businesses in March after Iran had reported its first two Covid-19 deaths in Qom in late February.

Iran had allowed a phased reopening of its economy and a gradual relaxation of restrictions since early April, with a further easing expected in the coming days, despite a recent uptick in new cases.

Covid-19 has so far killed more than 7,400 people and infected over 136,000 in the country, according to the health ministry.