Iran officials deny MP died of coronavirus amid spike in cases

Peter Stubley
via REUTERS

An Iranian MP has died of the flu, semi-official news agencies have reported, amid a sharp rise in the number of novel coronavirus cases in the Islamic Republic.

Mohammad Ali Ramazani Dastak, who was elected as the representative for Astana Ashrafieh last week, was “hospitalised due to influenza and chemical injuries” dating back to the Iran-Iraq war, according to ISNA.

Reports in Iranian media had previously stated he was among five MPs who had tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus.

However, officials have since denied this is the case, stating that he tested negative and that Mr Ramazani suffered from respiratory and pulmonary disease before his death on Saturday morning.

It came as a health ministry spokesman said the new coronavirus had killed 43 people in the Islamic Republic, with 593 confirmed cases.

“Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours,” Kianush Jahanpur told state TV. “The death toll is 43 now.

“The new confirmed infected cases since yesterday is 205 that makes the total number of confirmed infected people 593.”

However officials in Iran’s health system told the BBC that at least 210 people have died as a result of the illness. The authorities have previously been accused of a cover-up and the US has expressed concern that they may not be sharing information.

Mr​​ Jahanpour accused BBC Farsi of spreading lies, while admitting that officials were ​preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” coming to test for the new coronavirus.

He urged people to stay away from mass gatherings such as funerals and limit their travel to avoid spreading the virus. All schools have been shut until Tuesday, while concerts and sports evens have been banned for a week.

Several high-ranking officials in Iran, including a vice minister, deputy health minister and five lawmakers, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Iran has the world’s highest death toll outside of China, the centre of the outbreak, and has been the source of all of Bahrain’s 38 cases so far.

On Saturday morning Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travellers who came from Iran and hadn’t been tested for the new coronavirus.

Only 310 out of the 2,292 people who came to the kingdom from the Islamic Republic have undergone testing, according to authorities there.

Additional reporting by agencies

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