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Iranian Lawmaker Asks Colleagues to Avoid Contact With Public as 23 MPs Infected: Report

Members of the medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize outdoor place of Imam Reza's holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran. (Reuters)

Members of the medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize outdoor place of Imam Reza's holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad, Iran. (Reuters)

That's according to lawmaker Abdolreza Mesri, who was quoted by Iranian state television's Young Journalists Club program. The comment comes as Iran's supreme leader put the country on war footing against the virus outbreak, which is the deadliest outside of China.

An Iranian lawmaker reportedly has told colleagues to stop their contact with public as there are 23 cases of the new coronavirus among parliament members.

That's according to lawmaker Abdolreza Mesri, who was quoted by Iranian state television's Young Journalists Club program. The comment comes as Iran's supreme leader put the country on war footing against the virus outbreak, which is the deadliest outside of China.

Iran's supreme leader put the Islamic Republic on war footing Tuesday against the new coronavirus by ordering its armed forces to assist health officials in combating the outbreak - the deadliest outside of China - that authorities say has killed 77 people.

After downplaying the coronavirus as recently as last week, Iranian authorities said Tuesday they had plans to potentially mobilize 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to confront the virus.

There are now over 2,530 cases of the new coronavirus across the Mideast.

Yet experts worry Iran's percentage of deaths to infections, now around 3.3 per cent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be far greater than current figures show.

Iran stands alone in how the virus has affected its government, even compared to hard-hit China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The death of Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi on Monday makes him the highest-ranking official within Iran's leadership to be killed by the virus. State media referred to him as a confidant of Khamenei.

The virus earlier killed Hadi Khosroshahi, Iran's former ambassador to the Vatican, as well as a recently elected member of parliament.

Those sick include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, better known as Sister Mary, the English-speaking spokeswoman for the students who seized the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and sparked the 444-day hostage crisis, state media reported.

Also sick is Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.

An activist group also said Tuesday that Wikipedia's Farsi-language website appeared to be disrupted in Iran after a close confidant to the supreme leader died of the new coronavirus. The advocacy group NetBlocks linked the death of Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi to the disruption, though Iranian officials and its state media did not immediately acknowledge it.

Authorities face increasing criticism from the Iranian public over the outbreak amid concerns the number of cases from the virus may be higher than currently reported.

NetBlocks described the disruption to accessing Farsi Wikipedia as being nationwide, saying its technical testing suggests the online encyclopedia is being blocked by the same mechanism used to block Twitter and Facebook.

first published:March 03, 2020, 21:02 IST