By Marina Villén
Tehran, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- Parks and gardens in Iran paint an unusually serene and quiet picture on Wednesday which would usually mark one of the country’s most popular festivities: Sizdah Bedar, also known as Nature Day.
But the coronavirus outbreak that has infected 47,593 people and killed 3,036, has forced authorities to ban the open-air celebration held in green spaces.
The millennial tradition takes place on the 13th day of Farvardín, the first month of the Persian calendar, and marks the end of the Nowruz — Persian New Year — vacation.
On a normal Sizdeh Bedar, millions of Iranians flock to the parks with picnics to spend a day in nature with family and friends.
“It is the first time in my life that I do not go to a park in Sizdah Bedar. My children are very sad because they believed that we were going to have an outdoor barbecue and that they could play all day with their cousins,” Bahar Yahanpur, a teacher and mother of two children, tells Efe.
Authorities closed parks, recreational areas and access to the countryside and mountains a few days ago to avoid crowds and the further spread of the virus.
Covid-19 has caused the death of 138 people in the last 24 hours in Iran, bringing the total death count to 3,036, according to figures announced Wednesday by the Ministry of Health.
Since Tuesday, 2,987 new cases were confirmed and so far more than 15,000 have recovered.
Operation commander of the National Committee on Combating Coronavirus in the Tehran Province, Alireza Zali, urged people to stay at home: “By going outdoors, people will not celebrate but rather welcome death,” he said.
This national commission sent a text message to people’s phones on Tuesday to remind them of the closure of all parks and recreational areas and to request cooperation to contain the pandemic.
In a tour of several green spaces in the capital, Efe verified they were all fenced off or surrounded by security tape.
Authorities stepped up measures further to ensure compliance with social distancing by announcing that vehicles parked in front of parks would be fined.
It was striking to see large groups of police and guards in Tehran’s green areas on Wednesday but the officers consulted by Efe said that no incidents had taken place and that practically no one had attempted to flout the law.
Sizdah Bedar often sees Iranians visiting rivers, lakes and ponds as one of the traditions is to release sprouting greens, known as sabze, back into nature.
Young and single people, particularly girls, tie and bind the greenery before leaving it in the water.
People make wishes in a ritual that seeks to attract good luck.
Sabze is one of the seven elements of the Haft-sin, an arrangement of seven symbolic items and traditional new year decoration.
This year many Iranians did not take part in the tradition for fear collecting the items from market stalls could contribute to the spread of the virus.
Sofreye Haft Sin or tablecloth of the seven es, the typical decoration of the new year, although this time many Irani.EFE-EPA