According to Iranian state media, the rapidly-spreading coronavirus epidemic claimed Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar as a new patient on Thursday, the first member of President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet to test positive for the disease.
Al-Arabiya News reported on Thursday that several other high-ranking Iranian officials have taken ill, and one former ambassador has been killed by the coronavirus:
Earlier today, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee Mojtaba Zolnour announced in a video that he had also been infected with the disease.
Two other Iranian officials – Member of Parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi – have also previously confirmed that they have been infected with the disease.
State media also reported on Thursday that Iranian cleric Hadi Khosroshahi died from coronavirus in Qom.
Khosroshahi served as Iran’s ambassador to the Vatican following the 1979 revolution.
Ebtekar attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday at which Rouhani was also present. Evidently no one at the meeting was wearing a protective mask.
Ebtekar is one of about a dozen vice presidents in the Iranian government. Raised in Philadelphia and fluent in English, she is best known outside of her country as “Screaming Mary” or “Mother Mary,” the very hostile English-language spokesperson for the Iranian terrorists who took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days during the Iranian Islamic revolution of 1979.
At the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Rouhani said the Iranian regime will continue to “only quarantine individuals,” but not entire cities such as Qom, the center of the Iranian outbreak and the location of a Shiite shrine that is still attracting pilgrims.
Rouhani said he has received “promising” reports from the Iranian health ministry, which claimed “at least 10 percent” of the patients hospitalized or monitored for the coronavirus are being discharged every day. Iran has thus far reported 139 infections and 19 fatalities.
“We will definitely be victorious against this virus in the next few weeks,” Deputy Health Minister Iraj Haririchi said in the videotaped message he issued on Tuesday to announce he has contracted the coronavirus. Haririchi said he has “isolated” himself to contain the infection.
The day before he announced he was sick, Haririchi gave a bizarre press conference in which he dismissed quarantines as a “Stone Age” approach and denied his government is covering up the true extent of the epidemic. Haririchi was visibly sick during this tirade.
Iranian doctors speaking anonymously have told foreign media they were threatened by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and told to keep quiet about the real coronavirus statistics, which they say are much worse than the numbers published by the regime. One of the doctors predicted Iran’s situation could become “many times worse than in China.”
The head of a medical university in Qom publicly stated that doctors have been ordered not to disclose coronavirus statistics to the public. Most testing has been routed through Iran, a cumbersome process that jeopardizes patients, but gives the regime the power to control how many cases are divulged to the public and the outside world.
Health experts have noted that Iran’s claimed mortality rate from the coronavirus is up to ten times higher than the rate reported by other countries, which suggests that either a large number of mild infections are not being detected by Iranian doctors – a grim possibility from the standpoint of controlling the epidemic, since it would mean many contagious Iranians have not been detected – or the government is lying about the total number of infections while admitting to deaths that cannot easily be concealed.