Iran is facing an unprecedented health crisis in the coronavirus outbreak that continues to devastate the country. So far, the infection has claimed nearly 1,600 lives and affected over 20,000 people.
On Saturday, the country's President Hassan Rouhani said that the partial lockdown imposed in few provinces will be withdrawn, in two to three weeks. However, in a new video an Imam of Friday prayer can be seen asking people to come and worship to be cured.
The video doing the rounds on social media shows Seyyed Mohammad Saeedi, the Imam of Friday prayer of Qom, imploring people to visit the Fatima Masumeh Shrine and pray as it is the place where "people find a cure." Incidentally, Qom is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.
'Cautious about the virus'
In the 25-second long clip, the Imam is heard asserting that the shrine is the place where people come to find a cure. "People should come here and seek physical and psychological cure. This place should remain open and it should help people," he said. Saeedi was appointed directly by the country's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.
As ongoing prayers can be heard in the background, the religious leader goes on to state that he is aware of the risks posed by the pathogen and sanitation at the shrine is being taken care of. "We are cautious about the virus and we keep the shrine clean," said the Imam, in the video that was shared by Iranian Journalist Masih Alinejad (@AlinejadMasih).
Twitterati not pleased
The call to prayer by a senior cleric in the epicenter of the deadly outbreak was slammed by several twitter users who found the action arrogant and defying scientific evidence surrounding the virus's potency.
One user wrote: "Listen to him. The clerics are speaking with arrogance that Coronavirus or not, their mosques and shrines should remain open. That any authority in their world would not stop them. How did they get like this."
Another user tweeted: " I am a Muslim and I strongly condemn what this ignorant fanatic did, in Islam we have no holy water nor miraculous nailed to a cross, what this ignorant did is just crime against humanity he must be interned in psychiatric hospital with all fanatics of all religions."
Iran's coronavirus problem
Despite thousands of confirmed cases and an official death toll that is heading towards the 2,000 mark, there are no quarantine measures in place. Recently, Rouhani categorically rejected the possibility of a quarantine. "We have no such thing as quarantine at all. There have been rumors that certain jobs and stores in Tehran or some cities will be quarantined. They are not true," he said according to the Press TV.
The situation in the country is grim with a high number of cases reported not on an hourly basis but every 10 mins. A spokesperson for the Iranian health ministry, Kianush Jahanpur, recently tweeted: "Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran."
As of now, 20, 610 people have been infected by the coronavirus and 1,556 casualties have been reported. The global death toll stands at 13,049 and the number of confirmed cases is 307,280.