Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, 78, is the latest of several senior Iranian officials to have died from the virus.
By Associated Press
Iran reported a record rise of 129 fatalities from the new coronavirus on Monday, pushing its total death toll to 853 amid nearly 15,000 confirmed cases. Lebanon went into lockdown and Iraqis prepared for a curfew as part of regional efforts to contain the new coronavirus.
It is one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Monday’s jump in fatalities was the largest one-day rise since the epidemic began. The real numbers may be even higher, as some have questioned the government’s reporting. Large areas in Iraq said to be mass graves can be seen from space.
A member of the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint or dismiss the country’s supreme leader, died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus, the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported Monday.
Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, 78, is the latest of several senior Iranian officials to have died from the virus. Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, Revolutionary Guard members and Health Ministry officials have caught the virus, compounding fears about Iran’s response to the global pandemic.
The official leading Iran’s response to the virus on Sunday expressed concerns that health facilities could be overwhelmed if the rate of new cases continues to climb.
“If the trend continues, there will not be enough capacity,” Ali Reza Zali, who is leading the campaign against the outbreak, was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA news agency.
Businesses have nevertheless remained open in Iran, with the divergent approaches adopted by local authorities reflecting continued uncertainty over how to slow the spread of a virus that has infected around 170,000 people worldwide and caused more than 6,500 deaths.
Many Iranians have dismissed fears about the virus and advice from public health officials to avoid social contact. Restaurants and cafes have remained open, though business has diminished.
Iran is believed to have around 110,000 hospital beds, including 30,000 in the capital, Tehran. Authorities have pledged to set up mobile clinics as needed.
Elsewhere in the region, the number of infections has continued to climb even as authorities have imposed strict travel and quarantine measures.
Mideast stock markets also tumbled Monday, with the Dubai Financial Market closing down 6.14% and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange down 7.83%. Both have closed their trading floors over fears about the virus.