‘An absolute disaster’: Iran struggles as coronavirus spreads

The Guardian | Patrick Wintour: Streets are empty, schools and cinemas are closed, but there is a feeling that officials have been too slow to react 

Little rows of upright matchsticks, stuck in felt, have appeared alongside cash machines and lift doors, offering a chance for Iranians to press the buttons without their fingers touching potentially coronavirus-contaminated metal surfaces. Guides have also appeared on how to attach metal extensions to cigarette lighters for the same purpose, and in public some men no longer shake hands or kiss as a greeting, but instead tap their shoes on one another.

Traffic jams have disappeared from Tehran’s crowded streets, even if the pollution remains due to the filth generated by power stations, and the city’s now often empty metro train carriages are sprayed with disinfectant two or three times a day. Distance working and learning has become the norm. Evening language classes, popular in Tehran, are empty. Internet traffic is up 40% as Iranians work from home.

As the official death toll has risen – authorities said a total of 77 people had succumbed to the virus in Iran – the most of any country outside China – Friday prayers were cancelled for the first time since the 1979 revolution, as have football matches.

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