Tehran held public prayers on Friday for the first time since coronavirus concerns caused the Iranian government to suspend weekly worship in March 2020.
Believers who attended the service at Tehran University had to distance themselves socially and wear face masks. Friday prayers resumed as 400 Muslim scholars and religious leaders gathered in the Iranian capital for the 35th annual conference of International Islamic Unity, which began Tuesday.
â€œToday is a very sweet day for us. We thank the Almighty for giving us back the Friday prayers after a time of limitations and privations. ” Reuters quoted Mohammad Javad Haj Ali Akbari, the imam who led the service, said.
Iran has experienced the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 5.8 million registered cases since February 2020. On Tuesday, Health Minister Bahram Einollahi said he was “sure” that Iran would experience a sixth wave of the virus.
The Iranian Ministry of Health announced on Friday that 165 more Iranians have died from COVID-19. The official death toll is close to 125,000, although experts and Iranian officials say the real number is likely much higher.
Vaccine adoption in Iran was slowed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ban on American and British-made vaccines last January, which he described as “unreliable”. Iran has vaccinated roughly since then 40% of the population out of 80 million, health officials say.
The country mainly administers the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine, in addition to its own locally-made vaccines. Despite the Western vaccine ban, Iran also approved the use of the US-developed Johnson & Johnson vaccine in September.