Iran Halts Religious Tourism to Syria

In an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Iran has suspended religious trips to sites in Syria and Cham Wings have cancelled flights to Tehran writes Sowt al-Asima.

On Sunday, the Iranian government announced the “temporary” suspension of tourist trips from Tehran to religious shrines in Damascus to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The Iranian Fars agency said that the trips to the Sayyida Zainab shrine in Damascus were suspended until the end of the Iranian year, which ends on Mar. 20, 2020. Similar trips to shrines in Iraq were also canceled.

Meanwhile, the Assad regime cabinet revealed a set of pre-emptive measures to prevent coronavirus from spreading, including temporarily suspending the entry of tourist groups from infected countries to Syria from all land, sea and air crossings.

The Cham Wings airline, owned by Bashar al-Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf, on Saturday, suspended its flights to and from Iran until further notice, “to avoid the transmission of any possible coronavirus infection.”

The company said in a statement that it had, “since the beginning of the spread of the coronavirus globally and in some neighboring countries, started to implement precautionary health measures at the instructions and recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Syrian Ministry of Health.” It said that it is conducting “an examination of every passenger boarding its flights, as well as distributing respiratory masks and medical gloves to their hospitality agents to prevent any possible infections being transmitted. ”

This comes days after the director general of the regime General Civil Aviation Authority stressed there was “no need” to suspend flights between Syria and Iran, where the coronavirus has recently spread, because the Ministry of Health centers were taking “precautionary measures” at airports by examining all passengers.

Samer Khadr, director of the Mujtahid Hospital general authority in Damascus, said on Saturday, that there were no cases of coronavirus in the hospital. He said that in the event of any infection, it will be announced immediately, because it is in no-one’s interest for anyone to hide infections resulting from the disease. This came after media circulated reports that there were two cases of the virus in the hospital.

Khadr said that two Syrian men, “came to the hospital two days ago complaining of high temperature and chest pain, and said that they had had a friend visit from Iran recently. Medical tests were carried out for them, including the required tests to detect coronavirus, and the result was negative and they were diagnosed with pneumonia. I provided the necessary treatments for them and one was discharged yesterday, while the other is continuing hospital treatment. ”

On Monday, the number of deaths from the coronavirus in Iran rose to 55, while 987 others were infected, according to the Iranian Ministry of Health. Iranian media has reported many more deaths, saying that the number of casualties ranges between 200 to 300, as well as thousands of injuries.

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