Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Contracts Coronavirus

The number of people killed by the coronavirus in Iran has risen to at least 15, the country’s health ministry said, with nearly 100 cases of the infection confirmed, including the man in charge of containing the spread of the pathogen in the country, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Airlines from neighboring nations suspended flights to and from Iran in response to the outbreak, after Iranian health officials said Monday roughly 1,000 other people with coronavirus-like symptoms are being examined.

Iran’s deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, said he was among the new patients confirmed infected by the virus in a video published on social media Tuesday.

Harirchi was leading the task-force to limit the virus’s expansion. On Monday, he had appeared in a news conference with the government spokesman, looking visibly ill. He had also been in a public spat with a lawmaker who alleged the number of fatalities from the virus was much higher than reported, the Journal adds.

A prominent reformist lawmaker, Mahmoud Sadeghi, also said Tuesday that he had contracted the virus. Saying on Twitter that he didn’t expect to have long to live, Sadeghi called on authorities to release political prisoners on furlough in order for them not to get infected.

Iranian officials have asked people not to leave Qom, one of the country’s main pilgrimage sites and believed to be the source of the outbreak, about 75 miles south of the country’s capital, but haven’t imposed a full quarantine on the city.

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