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Iran’s vice president infected with coronavirus

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Iran's vice president, spokeswoman infected with coronavirus

A state-owned newspaper in Iran says Masoumeh Ebtekar, a vice president in the Islamic Republic and a spokeswoman for the 1979 Islamic revolutionary hostage-takers, has the new coronavirus.

The report came from the English-language IRAN daily newspaper via its Twitter account.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Islam’s holiest sites over the new coronavirus, potentially disrupting the plans of millions of faithful ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and as the annual hajj pilgrimage looms.

The decision showed the growing worry across the Mideast about the virus as Iran confirmed that infected cases in the country spiked by over 100, to 254 now. A total of 26 people have died so far, it said. That pushes the region’s overall cases to above 350. Iran’s death toll is highest outside of China, where the outbreak began.

READ ALSO: Israel turns back travellers from Italy over coronavirus fears

Saudi Arabia’s barring of pilgrims from Mecca, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day, and also the holy city of Medina, appeared unprecedented in modern history. The kingdom’s Al Saud ruling family stakes their legitimacy in overseeing and protecting the sites. Authorities also suspended entry to travelers from nations affected by the new virus who hold tourist visas for the kingdom.

It appeared Saudi officials worried about the risk of pilgrims spreading the virus as they had in Iran. The virus’ epicenter in the Islamic Republic is the holy Shiite city of Qom, where the faithful in reverence reach out to kiss and touch a famous shrine. That shrine and others have remained open, despite Iran’s civilian government calling for them to be closed.

The hardest-hit nation in the Mideast is Iran, where Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour on Thursday reported 26 deaths out of 245 confirmed cases of the illness. Experts are concerned Iran may be underreporting cases and deaths, given the illness’ rapid spread from Iran across the Persian Gulf.

Jahanpour seemed to address that, saying new labs in Iran were conducting tests and the number of confirmed cases could continue to spike in coming days. Thursday’s number represented a jump in over 100 new cases from the previous day. Authorities said Friday prayers in Tehran and other cities would be canceled, according to semiofficial Iranian news agencies.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday praised medical staffers, calling their work “very invaluable.” But the virus has struck the official in charge of Iran’s response to the outbreak, as well as a reformist lawmaker. On Thursday, a hard-line cleric from Qom who also serves in parliament posted a video online acknowledging he had been infected.

“Yes, my corona test is positive, too and I am in quarantine,” Mojtaba Zonnouri said in the video. “God willing, our nation will overcome in fight against corona.”

There have been no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Saudi Arabia amid the outbreak.

Times Of Israel

Vanguard Nigeria News

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