Another Iran Lawmaker Dies from Coronavirus as Death Toll Soars

A bus driver wearing a protective mask as a precaution against COVID-19 coronavirus disease operates a bus in Iran's capital Tehran on March 15, 2020. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran warned Monday the coronavirus pandemic could overwhelm local health facilities as the death toll topped 700 and another senior lawmaker died from the disease.

Ayatollah Bathaee, representative of Tehran in the Assembly of Experts, died age 78 on Monday morning, according to the semi-official Tasnim newsagency.

The cleric, who had been infected with coronavirus died at a hospital in Qom, the city where the first cases of coronavirus in Iran were detected.

The Assembly of Experts is a high-ranking body that elects and oversees the activities of the leader of the Islamic Revolution. Members of the assembly are directly elected to office for an eight-year term and work alongside cabinet members who have also been testing positive for the disease.

Coronavirus has laid waste to the upper levels of Iran’s ruling theocracy, already killing newly elected MP Fatemeh Rahbar, ex-ambassador to Syria Hossein Sheikholeslam, newly elected lawmaker Mohammad Ali Ramezani, former lawmaker Mohammad Reza Rahchamani, former ambassador to Vatican City Seyed Hadi Khosroshahi, adviser to the Judiciary chief Ahmad Tuiserkani, and Mojtaba Fazeli, the chief of staff of top cleric Ayatollah Shobeiri Zanjani.

Iran has closed schools and universities, suspended major cultural and sporting events and reduced working hours across the country to slow the contagion, which has spread to all of its 31 provinces.

Such has been the devastation caused in Iran, local authorities are digging burial trenches so large they can be seen from space, as Breitbart News reported.

The massive pits are being dug at the Behesht-e Masoumeh complex in Qom, about 80 miles south of Tehran. Within a month of its beginning, the two 100-yard trenches were visible by satellite. These trenches will supplement existing efforts to inter the rising death toll in Qom.

According to official reports, more than 10,000 Iranians suffer from the coronavirus, although devout Iranian Muslims are releasing online videos showing the faithful licking and kissing shrines to show they have no fear of infection and are willing to die for their faith.

Touching and kissing surfaces in shrines is a common practice for Islamic pilgrims, and religious hardliners argue the holy sites of Qom are “a place for healing.”

Iran’s Health Ministry on Sunday reported another 113 deaths, the biggest single-day jump in fatalities. That brings the country’s total death toll to 724, with nearly 14,000 confirmed cases, one of the worst outbreaks outside China.

“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.

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