Coronavirus kills council member who advises the supreme leader of Iran

TEHRAN: A member of a council that reports that the supreme leader of Iran died Monday after getting sick of the new state radio became the first senior official to succumb to the disease that affects members of the leadership of the Islamic Republic .

The death of the Expedition Council member occurred when Iran announced that the virus had killed 66 people among 1,501 confirmed cases in the country.

Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Mirmohammadi died in a hospital in northern Tehran from the virus, state radio said. He was 71 years old.

The council advises the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei , in addition to resolving disputes between the high cleric and the parliament.

His death comes when other senior officials have contracted the virus in Iran.

The sick include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, better known as Sister Mary, the English-speaking spokeswoman for students who seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and triggered the 444-day hostage crisis, state media reported.

Also sick is Iraj Harirchi, the head of a special force of the Iranian government on the coronavirus who tried to minimize the virus before becoming ill.

Iran has reported 978 confirmed cases of the new virus with 54 deaths from the disease it causes, called COVID-19.

Across the Middle East, there are more than 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, most of which are linked to Iran.

Experts fear that the percentage of deaths from infections in Iran, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than in other countries, suggesting that the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than current figures show .

The Iranian government spokesman, who addressed journalists by teleconference about concerns about the virus, acknowledged the pending challenges for the Islamic Republic.

We will have two difficult weeks ahead, he said.

In trying to stop the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Iran also held an online information session on Monday only from its Foreign Ministry. China has also held similar teleconference information sessions.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi opened the online press conference on the outbreak and rejected an offer of help for Iran from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Iran and the USA UU. They have seen some of the worst tensions since their Islamic Revolution of 1979 in recent months, which culminated in the US drone attack that killed an Iranian general in Baghdad and a subsequent counterattack of Iranian ballistic missiles against US forces.

We do not have such help nor are we willing to accept verbal help, Mousavi said. He added that Iran has always been suspicious of the intentions of the United States and accused the US government of trying to weaken Iranian spirits by the outbreak.

The head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, acknowledged that some people had begun to accumulate medical supplies for profit in the country, and urged prosecutors not to show mercy for the accumulators.

To accumulate disinfectant items is to play with people's lives and is not ignorable, said Raisi.

Raisi also urged officials to grant maximum licenses to prisoners. Activists have expressed concern about the spread of the new coronavirus in Iran's prisons.

Meanwhile, evacuations of the virus began.

The essential staff needed to continue the critical work will continue to be, said the British Foreign Ministry. In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy to provide assistance to British citizens within Iran may be limited.

While Iran has closed schools and universities to stop the spread of the virus, the main Shia sanctuaries have remained open even though civil authorities have called for them to close. The sacred cities of Mashhad and Qom in particular, both where sanctuaries are located, have been severely affected by the virus.

Shiites often touch and kiss shrines as a sign of their faith. The authorities have been cleaning the sanctuaries with disinfectants.

Police arrested a man who posted a video that showed himself licking the metal surrounding the Mashhad, the most important Shiite saint buried in the country, according to semi-official news agency reports.

In the video, the man said he licked the metal to allow others to visit the sanctuary in peace.

Meanwhile, on Monday, the virus outbreak was dragged into the boycott of Qatar for four years by four Arab nations over a political dispute.

A prominent columnist for the Al-Bayan newspaper owned by the Dubai government on Twitter falsely described the virus as a plot by Qatar to harm the next Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

Noura al-Moteari later described the tweet as satire to The Associated Press after calling attention.

The Dubai Media Office similarly described the tweet as written in a cynical style while distancing the Arabic language from al-Moteari.

Noura is a freelance writer and is not an Al-Bayan employee nor does she represent the views of the publication, she told the AP. That said, this has no relevance to any social media policy practiced by the publication or by the state.

The tweet comes after Qatar expressed disappointment on Sunday because almost all of its Gulf neighbors rejected invitations to attend the weekend peace signing ceremony between the United States and the Taliban.