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Iran has started to re-open government offices, businesses despite coronavirus

Iran, which has experienced the worst novel COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, began easing restrictions Saturday after a nationwide lockdown was put in place following the end of the Nowruz Holiday on April 4.

Government offices outside Tehran re-opened, and two-thirds of employees went into work, while the rest remained remote. Women with young children were reportedly given priority to work at home if necessary. Businesses in Tehran will be allowed to open next Saturday, so long as they register with authorities and adhere to social distancing guidelines. The government reportedly expects to be dealing with the virus in some capacity until the fall.

Iran has confirmed more than 70,000 cases and 4,300 people, including senior Iranian officials, have died of the disease, although some observers have questioned both totals. Regardless, the government tried to resist wide-scale shutdowns, arguing quarantines could be devastating economically considering the country is already under the strain of U.S. sanctions put in place after the Trump administration withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal. Washington has offered humanitarian aid to help Iran fight the virus, but Tehran turned it down as part of an all or nothing approach when it comes to sanctions. Read more from The Associated Press.