Iran Limits Use of Paper Money to Avoid Virus’s Spread

DUBAI (AP) -
A member of a medical team sprays disinfectant liquid to sanitize a bus station following the coronavirus outbreak, in Tehran, Iran, Thursday. (WANA [West Asia News Agency]/Nazanin Tabatabaee via Reuters)

Iran’s health minister is encouraging the public to reduce its use of paper money as it is aiding the spread of the new coronavirus.

Saeed Namaki made the announcement Thursday at a news conference.

He added that people should stay in their cars at gas stations and allow attendants to fill their cars to avoid the spread of the virus.

He earlier said authorities will begin manning checkpoints to limit travel between major cities in the Islamic Republic.

Namaki added that schools and universities will remain closed through Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on March 20.

Earlier Thursday, the United Arab Emirates warned its citizens and its foreign residents not to travel anywhere abroad amid the ongoing worldwide coronavirus outbreak, a stark warning for a country home to two major long-haul airlines.

The country’s Health and Community Protection Ministry warning comes as its capital, Abu Dhabi, sent 215 foreigners it evacuated from hard-hit Hubei in China to a quarantine set up in its Emirates Humanitarian City. They include citizens of Egypt, Sudan and Yemen.

Health officials warned that those traveling abroad could face quarantine themselves at the discretion of authorities. The UAE is home to some 9 million people, with only about 1 million estimated to be Emirati citizens.

The UAE is home to Emirates, the government-owned airline based at Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel. Abu Dhabi also is home to Etihad, the country’s national carrier. Both airlines have encouraged staff to take time off as international travel has dropped due to the virus.

There are now over 3,150 cases of the virus across the Mideast. Of those outside Iran in the region, most link back to the Islamic Republic. There, authorities say the virus has killed at least 92 people amid 2,922 confirmed cases. Iran and Italy have the world’s highest death tolls outside of China.

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted Islamic worship in the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia on Wednesday banned its citizens and other residents of the kingdom from performing the pilgrimage in Mecca, while Iran canceled Friday prayers in major cities.