Iran’s deputy HEALTH minister tests positive for coronavirus after looking shaky and unwell – but regime still refuses to close pilgrim city as death toll rises to 15 and cases are exported around the Middle East

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
By Paul Martin

Deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi tested positive and is now under quarantine
Iran has the worst outbreak in the Middle East even according to official figures
The regime has acknowledged 95 cases of coronavirus with 15 people now dead
A lawmaker in Qom yesterday claimed that 50 people had died in the holy city
But the governor of Qom says it would not be ‘appropriate’ to quarantine it
Iranians are also facing a shortage of medical supplies including testing kits

By TIM STICKINGS
DAILYMAIL.COM
25 February 2020

Iran’s deputy health minister has tested positive for coronavirus as the crisis deepened in the Islamic republic today.

Iraj Harirchi was taken into quarantine just a day after sweating heavily at a press conference where he insisted that the outbreak was not as bad as feared.

The virus’s spread into the health ministry is the latest sign of Tehran’s faltering efforts to contain the outbreak as the official death toll rose to 15 today.

The regime has refused to seal off the holy city of Qom at the centre of the crisis even as pilgrims spread the virus around the Middle East and Iranians face shortages of masks and testing kits.

Even according to official figures, Iran has the worst virus outbreak in the Middle East with at least 95 people now infected – an increase of 34 since yesterday – and three new deaths bringing the toll to 15.

However, there is strong suspicion that the true figures are much higher, with one lawmaker declaring yesterday that 50 people had died in the city of Qom.

Qom, where the virus is believed to have arrived in Iran from China, is a major destination for Shi’ite pilgrims from around the Middle East.

Around 20million pilgrims visit the city every year, and Iran would find it difficult to shut its porous borders with neighbours including Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A series of Middle East governments have imposed travel bans after the virus spread across the region and Turkey today ordered a jet to be diverted on its way from Tehran to Ankara.

But despite the growing crisis, the governor of Qom declared last night that locking down the city was ‘not an appropriate solution’, Iranian media said.

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