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A cleric man wears a protective mask amid concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread, at Najaf airport in the holy city of Najaf upon his arrival from Iran, Iraq. -REUTERS pic
A cleric man wears a protective mask amid concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread, at Najaf airport in the holy city of Najaf upon his arrival from Iran, Iraq. -REUTERS pic

TEHRAN: Iran’s Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak has killed a member of the clerical body that appoints the supreme leader, state media said on Monday, taking the death toll among serving and ex-officials to at least 12.

Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi Golpayegani, who was 78, died two days after testing positive for the Covid-19 virus and being hospitalised, state news agency IRNA reported.

The official represented Tehran in the Assembly of Experts, an 88-strong body of clerics that appoints and monitors Iran’s supreme leader.

At least 12 Iranian politicians and officials, both sitting and former, have now died of the illness, and 13 more have been infected and are either in quarantine or being treated.

The country has been scrambling to contain the rapid spread of coronavirus which so far has infected 13,938 people and killed at least 724, according to official figures.

The number of coronavirus deaths and infections has been on the rise ever since the first two fatalities were announced on Feb 19.

According to the health ministry, the rising trend is due to the increasing number of tests being done.

It says many patients started showing symptoms days after they were infected.

Official tolls, which are given every 24 hours, have usually lagged behind reports by local media and have sometimes been contradicted by provincial authorities.

Iran is yet to impose a lockdown but it has temporarily closed parliament, barred pilgrims from gathering at a holy tomb and postponed the second round of legislative elections.

Officials have repeatedly urged citizens to stick to guidelines and stay at home to stop the coronavirus from spreading. - AFP

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