Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s Vice President, diagnosed of Coronavirus.
Iran’s vice-president, Masoumeh Ebtekar, has been diagnosed with coronavirus, state owned media have reported, as the country struggles to stop the malicious spread of the disease.
Masoumeh Ebtekar, the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, is among 254 people infected with the virus in the Middle Eastern nation, where 26 people have been killed.
Ms Ebtekar was the first female member of the cabinet in Iran when she was nominated to head the Department for Environment in 1997.
The minister is reported to have attended a cabinet meeting yesterday during which she sat close to President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, according to reports by the BBC’s Persian correspondent.
Meanwhile, Iran’s deputy health minister tested positive for the virus earlier this week, hours after appearing visibly unwell at a press conference during which he denied the government was suppressing the scale of the outbreak.
Coronavirus cases in Iran spiked by 106 over the last 24 hours, the country’s health ministry announced on Thursday. The country’s death toll from the outbreak is higher than any country except China, where the epidemic began.
The outbreak has prompted Iranian authorities to cancel Friday prayers in Tehran. Health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said there were also plans to impose restrictions at some holy Muslim sites but the plan “needs the approval of the president before being carried out”.
Mr Jahanpur, speaking to state TV, urged Iranians to avoid “unnecessary trips inside the country”.
State news agency IRNA said Chinese citizens have been banned from entering the country. Similar restrictions have been implemented by dozens of other nations including the US, Russia, South Korea and Australia in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus.
Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s emergencies programme, said Iran’s 10 per cent mortality rate – five times higher than China – was probably due to milder cases of the disease not being picked up.
International health experts have expressed concern about Iran’s handling of the outbreak but Tehran insists the situation has been ‘improving’.
The United Arab Emirates has already banned all flights to and from Iran over the outbreak.
The UAE, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, remains a key international transit route for Iran’s 80 million people.