In this Sunday, March 1, 2020 photo, a medic treats a patient infected with coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran. (Koosha Mahshid Falahi/Mizan News Agency via AP)

Iran’s deputy chairman of parliament announced on Tuesday that 23 MPs out of the 290-member chamber have tested positive for the coronavirus, days after suspending sessions.

According to BBC Persian, the lawmakers may have been infected due to their contact with their constituents across the country, which has reported the highest number of cases outside China, where the virus originated in January.

In total, 77 people have died and 2,336 have been infected by the coronavirus, Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said in an announcement on state TV on Tuesday.

An adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has died from the new coronavirus, as other top officials in the country are confirmed to be infected, according to multiple reports on Monday.

The Iranian Health Ministry recorded 523 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s known total to 1,501. They mark a 53 percent increase since the day before.

Mohammad Mirmohammadi, 71, was an Expediency Council member who advised Khamenei and settled disputes between him and parliament. COVID-19 has already infected Iran’s vice president and deputy health minister.

His death comes after the government on Monday rejected help from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who announced last week the U.S. was concerned Iran may have covered up details on the spread of the virus.

“We neither count on such help nor are we ready to accept verbal help,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said during a briefing on Monday. He added the country has always been “suspicious” over American intentions, and that the U.S. government was trying to weaken Iranians’ spirits over the outbreak.

Iran’s mortality rate from the virus is roughly 5.5 percent, compared to an overall fatality rate of about 2 percent in China. The difference in rates has led people to suggest the number of infections in Iran is higher than what the country has officially reported. The country’s first case was reported less than two weeks ago.

Several countries in the region have reported coronavirus infections in people who have visited Iran. Among them was Saudi Arabia which on Monday announced its first case of the new coronavirus – a person that had come from Iran through Bahrain, the health ministry said, according to the state news agency.

Kuwait’s health ministry on Monday also reported 10 new cases in the last 24 hours, all of whom had been in Iran.

Qatar’s health ministry said on Monday that four more people had been diagnosed with coronavirus, among a group who were evacuated by the government on a private plane from Iran on Feb. 27. That raised total cases in Qatar to seven.

The United Arab Emirates sent a shipment of medical supplies, including gloves and surgical masks, to Iran on Monday, state news agency WAM reported.

Source: Middle East Eye, CNBC, MSN

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