Iranian lawmaker dies of novel coronavirus as death toll rises to 145

Iranian lawmaker dies of novel coronavirus as death toll rises to 145
An Iranian lawmaker died from the novel coronavirus on Saturday, one of several officials to succumb to the illness in the epidemic-hit country.

2 min read
07 March, 2020
Fatemeh Rahbar, 55, served as MP from 2004 to 2016 [Twitter]

The death toll from the novel coronavirus in Iran continued to rise on Saturday with 21 more people killed, including a politician who became the eighth official to succumb to the disease.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour announced 1,076 additional cases had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall tolls to 145 dead and 5,823 infected.

"More than 16,000 people are currently hospitalised as suspect cases," Jahanpour said during a televised news conference.

He added that 1,669 people who were sick with the COVID-19 illness have recovered.

The Islamic republic is battling one of the world's deadliest outbreaks of the disease outside China, where it originated.

The capital Tehran remains the worst-hit province in the country, with 1,539 confirmed cases.

On Saturday, a newly elected conservative MP for the city was the second Iranian lawmaker killed by the virus, state news agency IRNA reported.

Fatemeh Rahbar, 55, served as MP from 2004 to 2016 and was  among the top candidates in Tehran for the conservatives, who overwhelmingly won February's general election marked by the lowest turnout in the Islamic republic's history.

Seven other politicians and government officials have died in the outbreak since the country reported its first cases in mid-February.

Iran has closed schools and universities until early April, as well as 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.

The number of infections is climbing in northern provinces in particular, Jahanpour said.

More than 300 of the new cases reported on Saturday were in Mazandaran province, a popular tourist destination north of Tehran on the Caspian sea.

"Mazandaran is at the top of the list because the necessary limitations (on domestic travelling) were not imposed," Jahanpour added.

"Considering that a minority are not taking the situation seriously and risk their own and others' health, imposing limitations is now on the agenda."

Several provinces, including in northern and central Iran, have said they will not provide lodging to tourists in an effort to dissuade people from travelling.

Read more: How Gulf countries succeeded where Iran failed on containing coronavirus

Gilan and Mazandaran police from Friday started preventing cars without local license plates from entering the provinces.

But according to an adviser to the health minster Alireza Vahabzadeh, some locals were bypassing the restrictions by giving non-residents lifts across province borders. 

In a tweet, he urged people to "cooperate" with the authorities.

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