Middle East on high alert as Iran council member dies from coronavirus

 

March 02, 2020

 

  • The report Monday said Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi had died
  • Kuwait Ministry of Health said they have identified 10 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours


His death comes as other top officials have contracted the virus in Iran, which has the highest death toll in the world after China. (File/AFP)

By AP

 

DUBAI – Countries across the Middle East reported on Monday new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), as the disease continues to spread around the world.

Governments have asked people to follow precautionary measures to help tackle the spread of the virus, including avoiding crowded public spaces.

Iranian state radio said a member of a council that advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has died after falling ill from the new coronavirus.

The report Monday said Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi had died. He was 71.

The council advises Khamenei, as well as settles disputes between the supreme leader and parliament.

His death comes as other top officials have contracted the virus in Iran, which has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Trying to stem the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Iran on Monday held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry as Britain began evacuating nonessential staff and families from the country which has the highest death toll from the virus outside of China.

Iran has reported 978 confirmed cases of the new virus with 54 deaths from the illness it causes, called COVID-19. Across the wider Mideast, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.

Experts worry Iran’s percentage of deaths to infections, around 5.5%, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than current figures show.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi opened the online news conference addressing the outbreak, dismissing an offer of help for Iran by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“We neither count on such help nor are we ready to accept verbal help,” Mousavi said. He added Iran has always been “suspicious” about America’s intentions and accused the US government of trying to weaken Iranians’ spirits over the outbreak.

The British Embassy meanwhile has begun evacuations over the virus.

“Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain,” the British Foreign Office said. “In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy to provide assistance to British nationals from within Iran may be limited.”

While Iran has closed schools and universities to stop the spread of the virus, major Shiite shrines have remained open despite civilian authorities calling for them to be closed. The holy cities of Mashhad and Qom in particular, both home to shrines, have been hard-hit by the virus. Shiites often touch and kiss shrines as a sign of their faith. Authorities have been cleaning the shrines with disinfectants.

Police have arrested one man who posted a video showing himself licking the metal enclosing the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, the most-important Shiite saint buried in the country, according to reports by semiofficial news agencies. In the video, the man said he licked the metal to “allow others to visit the shrine with peace of mind.”

Kuwait’s Ministry of Health also announced Monday a further 10 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 55.

The patients were transferred to a designated hospital where they will be isolated and receive treatment.

The ministry renewed its advisory telling people to avoid crowded public spaces, and asked people to practice caution.

Leave a Reply