Iran's supreme leader suggested Thursday that mass gatherings in the Islamic Republic may be barred through the holy Muslim fasting month Ramadan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comment in a televised address as Iran tries to restart its economic activity while suffering one of the world's worst outbreaks.
"In the absence of public gatherings in the Ramadan month including praying, speeches and so on, that we are this year deprived of them, we should create the same senses in our lonesomeness," Khamenei said.
Ramadan is set to begin in late April and last through most of May. Public officials had not yet discussed plans for the holy month, which sees the Muslim faithful fast from dawn until sunset.
Khamenei urged Shiite faithful to pray in their homes during Ramadan. Shiites typically pray communally, especially during Ramadan.
Iran has reported over 67,000 confirmed cases of the new virus, with nearly 4,000 deaths. However, experts have repeatedly questioned those numbers, especially as Iran initially downplayed the outbreak in February amid the 41st anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution and a crucial parliamentary vote.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the country's economy to slowly begin opening back up starting Saturday, leading to worries the nation could see a second wave of infections. The Islamic Republic's economy is suffering under intense U.S. sanctions after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Khamenei made a point to remind Iranians that the U.S. is the main enemy and mocked Americans who fought over toilet paper at stores and lined up outside of gun shops to purchase firearms.
"The problem of corona should not make us ignorant about the plots by our enemies and arrogant" powers, he said.