by WorldTribune Staff, March 3, 2020
The coronavirus is taking a heavy toll on high ranking government officials in Iran.
As recently as last week, government officials in Teheran had downplayed the effects of the virus in the Islamic Republic.
An activist group said that Wikipedia’s Farsi-language website appeared to be disrupted in Iran after a close confidant to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei died of the coronavirus.
The advocacy group NetBlocks linked the death of Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi to the virus.
Wikipedia noted that, as of Feb. 27, three senior Iranian officials had been diagnosed with coronavirus: deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi , Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar, and Chairman of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee Mojtaba Zolnour. Iran’s first ambassador to the Vatican, Hadi Khosroshahi, died from coronavirus in Qom on Feb. 27, Wikipedia noted.
Iranian authorities now say they have plans to potentially mobilize 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to confront the virus, The Associated Press reported on March 3.
An Iranian member of parliament Abdolreza Mesri told state-run television that there are 23 cases of coronavirus among parliament members.
Video footage has emerged of Iranians licking the doors and a burial mound at the Fatima Masumeh Shrine in Qom, the epicenter of the Iran’s coronavirus outbreak.
Journalist Masih Alinejad shared video of the disturbing practice, noting that officials have refused to shut down the religious shrines amid more than 1,500 confirmed infections in Iran.
“These pro-regime people are licking the shrines & encouraging people to visit them,” Alinejad tweeted. “Iran’s authorities are endangering lives of Iranians & the world.”
Pilgrims routinely kiss and lick religious shrines, including in Qom, which is considered a “place for healing,” according to the UK’s Daily Star.
Those who were photographed licking the doors said they “don’t care what happens,” the news outlet reported.
Meanwhile, some are calling for Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 15, to be quarantined.
At the time, the coronavirus was spreading rapidly in Iran and among the upper echelons of Iranian leadership.
Some are now saying that Murphy should be quarantined to ensure he doesn’t become the “Typhoid Mary” of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
“Iranian FM Zarif and his entourage were likely COVID-19 carriers at the Munich Security Conference. The Democrat party senator who met with him for over an hour in Zarif’s hotel room must be watched for signs of disease,” Mark Langfan wrote in a March 1 analysis for Arutz Sheva.
“As of Feb. 28, there were officially 210 actual deaths in Iran. Unofficially, there have been over 500 reliably reported Iranian deaths,” noted Langfan, chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI).
Iran’s first officially-reported case was on Feb.19. “Working backward from the 19th, that means COVID-19 was likely already circulating in Iran from middle-to-late January when FM Zarif, or one of his staff, could have caught the disease,” Langfan wrote.
Murphy has been highly critical of President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus even though top officials in the CDC and NIH say the risk to Americans “remains low” because of the early steps Trump took to prevent the virus from becoming widespread in the U.S.
“Many of us were calling for major emergency funding weeks ago and (President Donald) Trump ignored us. Now it’s likely too little and too late,” said Murphy.
Murphy said the president’s request for $1.25 billion in new funding “is a tenth of what he has already spent in so-called emergency funding for his worthless border wall.”