Sizdah Bedar, also known as Nature Day, is an Iranian festival held annually on the thirteenth day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian calendar (falling on April 1 this year), during which Iranians reconcile with nature spending time in resorts, gardens and natural areas. It marks the end of the Noruz holidays in Iran.
An outbreak of the COVID-19, originating at a seafood market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December; has spread in Iran killing at least 3,294 and infected 53,183 people since April 3, while about 1,034,116 cases have been confirmed in 180 other countries, claiming 54,465 lives so far.
In response to the epidemic, Iran has implemented a social distancing plan, which began nationwide on March 27, culminated on April 1; which prevented the people to join social gatherings and encourage them to stay at home.
The outbreak reached its peak concurrent with the Iranian New Year celebration, which has made Noruz different with years and even centuries ago.
However, in Sizdah Bedar, people were also asked to stay at home and resist picnicking outdoor to break the chain of coronavirus transmission.
It can now be said that Iranian families who have been involved with coronavirus infection have come to the conclusion that they will not get rid of the disease except by observing healthcare methods and social distance.
Although police forces have stayed on guard to prevent people’s entrance to the parks and resorts, it seemed that people themselves resisted social gatherings.
With the efforts of the responsible bodies, law enforcement, and media, resorts and gardens were closed down and traffic in the country was minimized and even zero in some cases.
But photos went viral on social media showing family gatherings at home which taught us that Nature’s Day aims to keep families together and protect nature as same as it was centuries ago.
Significant reduction in traffic
Minimizing urban traffic on the country's roads were another achievement of people's empathy on Nature’s Day, as all provinces reported a 50 to 90 percent reduction in traffic on this day; East Azerbaijan reported that 90 percent of road traffic has decreased compared to the same day last year.
Or even in North Khorasan, the traffic police announced that the people's cooperation in the implementation of the social distancing plan has caused the province to be emptied of private car traffic so that most trucks can be seen on the roads.
It was also reported from Khuzestan province that with the participation of people, the suburban traffic of this province was reduced by 100 percent.
Empty tourist destinations
Favorable conditions were also reported in the tourist destination provinces; many residents in the northern provinces stayed at home, and a small number of those attempting to go on nature despite the restrictions, faced a strong barrier of law enforcement.
In Gilan province, a limited number of citizens who ignored the warnings were fined, including 120 cars.
In Tehran, as the most populous city of Iran, the conditions were not much different from other cities; Tehran citizens consciously chose to stay at home on Nature’s Day; and Piruz Hanachi, Tehran Mayor, wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday that “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those who accepted our advice and resisted to go to the forest and urban parks on Nature’s Day in order to break the chain of coronavirus transmission.”
This cooperation was followed by the appreciation of the Minister of Interior toward the people. Abdolreza Rahman Fazli expressed appreciation to the people for their full and commendable observance of the social distancing plan as a manifestation of the ancient civilization on Nature’s Day.
Social distancing plan continues
Although the Noruz holiday has come to an end, the implementation of the social distancing plan continues until April 8, which means that intercity traffic and community gatherings are prohibited; offices are open with one-third of their staff, while schools, universities, and kindergartens remain closed.
Despite all the people’s cooperation, according to Alireza Zali, Tehran's coronavirus management commander, although we are seeing a relative decrease in the prevalence of the disease, we should be cautious and this should not be deceptive.
Zali said that the situation, with regard to people's return from Noruz trips in the coming days, requires speculation and technical investigation and we are preparing these possible scenarios.