The coronavirus epidemic in Iran has cost 26 lives, the health ministry announced Thursday, with a vice president becoming the latest top official to be infected as the spread appeared to accelerate.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a news conference that the tally of infections had risen to 245 with 106 more cases confirmed — the highest number for a single day since Iran announced its first infections on February 19.
The Islamic republic has the highest death toll from the virus outside China, where COVID-19 first emerged.
Among the latest coronavirus sufferers is one of Iran’s seven vice presidents, Massoumeh Ebtekar, who oversees women’s affairs.
Ebtekar, a former spokeswoman for students who took 52 Americans hostage at the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, is being treated at home and members of her team have been tested, state news agency IRNA reported.
Mojtaba Zolnour, head of parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee, also contracted the virus, appearing in a video posted by Fars news agency saying he was in self-quarantine.
The cleric is a deputy for the Shiite holy city of Qom in central Iran where the country’s first cases were detected.
According to media reports, among the deceased in Qom on Thursday was theologian Hadi Khroroshahi, who in 1981 was named Iran’s first ambassador to the Vatican.
The announcement by Zolnour comes two days after another top official, deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi, head of the government’s coronavirus task force, said he too had contracted the virus.