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AP PHOTOS: Virus stills Iran's frenetic capital, Tehran

The typically frenetic streets of Iran's capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty over recent days due to the new coronavirus outbreak that's gripped the Islamic Republic.

The now-deserted cafes where waitstaff lounge around with no customers to serve, or the closed bookstores and stadiums, are such a sharp contrast to the way things were.

Iran’s government for days downplayed the effects of the virus. But as cases and deaths from the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes spiked, life changed dramatically on Tehran's main highways, in the narrow corridors of its historical Grand Bazaar and in the public spaces under portraits of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

In this Saturday, March 7, 2020 photo, a woman with a mask walks in the yard of a Friday prayer mosque in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran, Iran. The typically frenetic streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty due to the new coronavirus outbreak that’s gripped the Islamic Republic. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)

People began wearing masks, then gloves, then completely disappeared as the Persian New Year, Nowruz, closed down much of the country. The playgrounds and parks, closed to the public, sit empty. The same goes for the cinemas, the bus stations and the malls, including a massive one in Tehran's outskirts now housing a newly built clinic for the virus.

Even many shrines, deeply important to Iran's Shiite faithful, are emptier now, a lone woman wandering through the courtyard of one in Tehran's outskirts, when they should be filled for prayers.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has asked businesses to start to reopen beginning April 11, leading some to worry that another spike in coronavirus cases could loom. But for now, solitary figures cut across Tehran's streets at night as hazmat-suited firefighters spray disinfectant on the streets, trying to fight an enemy that no one can see but all know is there.

In this Thursday, March 12, 2020 photo, a empty soccer football field with dirt surface is seen in Tehran, Iran. The typically frenetic streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty due to the new coronavirus outbreak that’s gripped the Islamic Republic. The typically frenetic streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty due to the new coronavirus outbreak that’s gripped the Islamic Republic. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)

Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

In this Tuesday, March 24, 2020 photo, a pedestrian crosses an empty street with a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Iran. Due to the coronavirus and the COVID-19 illness it causes, life has changed dramatically on Tehran's main highways, in the narrow corridors of its historical Grand Bazaar and in the public spaces under portraits of its leaders. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)

In this Monday, March 16, 2020 photo, a worker cleans an empty and closed cinema hall in Tehran, Iran. Due to the coronavirus outbreak and the COVID-19 illness it causes, life has changed dramatically in Tehran. The playgrounds and parks, closed to the public, sit empty. The same goes for the cinemas, the bus stations and the malls, including a massive one in Tehran's outskirts now housing a newly built clinic for the virus. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)

In this March 18, 2020 photo, a man sits alone in an empty park in Tehran, Iran. The typically frenetic streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty due to the new coronavirus outbreak that’s gripped the Islamic Republic. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)

In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 photo, an empty park is seen in Tehran, Iran. The typically frenetic streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty due to the new coronavirus outbreak that’s gripped the Islamic Republic. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)

In this March 21, 2020 photo, work has halted on semi-finished construction projects due the the coronavirus outbreak, in Tehran, Iran. The typically frenetic streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty due to the virus outbreak that’s gripped the Islamic Republic. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)

In this Friday, April 3, 2020 photo, a sculpture of a man who makes a selfie photo sits in a mostly empty Azadi (Freedom) Square in Tehran, Iran. The typically frenetic streets of Iran’s capital, Tehran, have fallen silent and empty due to the new coronavirus outbreak that’s gripped the Islamic Republic. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)

In this Friday, April 3, 2020 photo, a man crosses an empty street under portraits of the late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, right, and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, in Tehran, Iran. Due to the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes, life has changed dramatically on Tehran's main highways, in the narrow corridors of its historical Grand Bazaar and in the public spaces under portraits of its leaders. (AP PhotoEbrahim Noroozi)