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Coronavirus: Iran's vice president Masoumeh Ebtekar 'infected with virus'

Thursday February 27, 2020

A vice president of Iran, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has been infected with the coronavirus, a state-owned newspaper says.

Iran has the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths outside China. At least 26 people have died and there have been 254 confirmed cases of the virus, including 106 new infections.

It has banned Chinese citizens from entering the country, the state news agency IRNA said.

Ms Ebtekar is the vice president for women and family affairs. Her symptoms are said to be mild and she has not been admitted to hospital.

She is also known as the English-language spokeswoman "Mary" for the 1979 hostage-takers who seized the US embassy in Tehran and sparked a 444-day diplomatic crisis.

The announcement about Ms Ebtekar having coronavirus comes two days after the man tasked with spearheading efforts to tackle the outbreak in the country also tested positive.

Iraj Harirchi was seen sweating and appeared uncomfortable at a news conference about the virus.
Mr Harirchi, deputy health minister and head of Iran's anti-coronavirus taskforce, posted a video online confirming he had the virus and was self-isolating at home.

The virus' epicentre in the Islamic Republic is the holy Shia city of Qom, where there is a famous shrine which remains open despite the government calling for it to be closed.

But authorities, including President Hassan Rouhani, said Iran has no plans to quarantine any "cities and districts" despite the sharp rise in numbers in a short time.

However, the outbreak has led authorities to suspended Friday prayers in Tehran, according to state TV.

Health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur has urged Iranians to avoid "unnecessary trips inside the country".

And the government has extended for another week its closure of cinemas and temporary ban on cultural events and conferences.

Officials have loosened rules barring the import of many foreign-made items to allow in sanitisers, face masks and other necessities.

They have also removed overhead handles on Tehran's underground system to eliminate another source of germs.

Iran's foreign ministry said "20,000 coronavirus test kits and some other material" will be delivered to Iran on Friday from China.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Islam's holiest sites amid concerns over the coronavirus.

It appeared Saudi officials are worried about the risk of pilgrims spreading the virus as they apparently had to Iran.


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