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Rouhani: US sanctions, coronavirus combined for Iran's hardest year

Rouhani: US sanctions, coronavirus combined for Iran's hardest year
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Iran is experiencing its most difficult year yet due to a combination of U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday.

“It’s been the most difficult year due to the enemy’s economic pressure and the pandemic,” Rouhani said in a televised address Sunday, Reuters reported. “The economic pressure that began in 2018 has increased ... and today it is the toughest pressure on our dear country.”

Rouhani added that masks will be required a period of two weeks, beginning on Sunday, in parts of the country that have been deemed coronavirus hotspots, Reuters reported. Iranian officials have warned previously-lifted restrictions will return if citizens fail to adhere to social distancing and other safety measures. Tehran this weekend launched a campaign aimed at increasing mask use.

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The nation was the Middle Eastern epicenter of the pandemic earlier in the year, and since restrictions have gradually been lifted, infections and deaths have sharply increased, with the country recently reporting more than 100 deaths a day for the first time in months.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state television that in the last 24 hours, officials recorded 2,489 new cases and 144 new deaths, for a total of 222,669 infections and 10,508 deaths, according to the news service.

In addition to the pandemic, the country’s economy has been devastated by the various sanctions imposed by the U.S. since Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018.

In late May, Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE announced the U.S. would end the final remaining sanctions waivers the agreement provided, which previously allowed Chinese, Russian and European companies to work at Iranian nuclear facilities without being subject to U.S. sanctions.