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Iran coronavirus: 23 MPs, senior health official test positive for illness

Iran's parliament has suspended sessions as the Islamic Republic records 77 deaths from the virus
Iranian medical personnel, wearing protective gear, work at the quarantine ward of a hospital in Tehran on 1 March 2020 (AFP)

At least 23 Iranian MPs and the head of Iran's emergency medical service have reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, in the latest spike in cases in the Islamic Republic.

According to BBC Persian, the 23 lawmakers, out of the 290-member chamber, 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 December.

The head of Iran's emergency medical services, Pir-Hossein Kolivand, has also been infected with virus, the ILNA news agency reported.

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Kolivand's "health is good and there is no need for concern", the office said in a statement.

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.

As the country continues to grapple with the outbreak, several Iranian government officials have tested positive, including an adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who was the first senior official to die from the virus.

Mohammad Mirmohammadi died on Monday in a Tehran hospital at the age of 71, according to Iranian state radio. 

Other government ministers who have fallen ill from the virus include Masoumeh Ebtekar, vice president for women and family affairs and a spokeswoman for the 1979 hostage-takers, and Iraj Harirchi, the deputy health minister tasked with managing Iran's response to the outbreak.

On Monday, the United Nations sent six medical experts to Iran to aide the Islamic Republic in its fight with the epidemic. 

The World Health Organisation said that a flight left Dubai on Monday carrying doctors, epidemiologists, laboratory specialists and medical supplies to "provide guidance on strengthening and scaling up the response to the ongoing outbreak".

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