Khamenei warns economy will worsen if virus spreads
Tehran: Iran's supreme leader warned on Saturday that the country's economic problems would worsen if the novel coronavirus spreads unchecked, saying the initial momentum to contain it had since "waned". The Islamic republic has struggled to curb the COVID-19 outbreak since it reported its first cases in the Shiite holy city of Qom in February.
It shut down non-essential businesses, closed schools and cancelled public events in March, but the government gradually lifted restrictions from April to try to reopen the country's sanctions-hit economy.
"It is correct to say that something must be done to prevent economic problems caused by the coronavirus," said Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"But in the case of negligence and significant spread of the disease, economic problems will increase, too," he said in a meeting with judiciary officials, according to his official website. The Iranian rial has plunged to new lows against the US dollar in recent days due to the temporary economy shutdown, border closures and halt in non-oil exports, according to analysts.
Iran's economic problems have worsened since 2018, when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic republic, targeting vital oil sales and banking ties. - AFP