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Coronavirus: Senior Iranian official dies as cases near 15,000

Iran's health ministry announced that the total death toll has reached 853, with total infections at 14,991 
Ayatollah Seyed Hashem Bathaee, 79, died on Monday in the holy city of Qom (Twitter)

A member of Iran’s council of experts died early on Monday, as the country reported 1,053 new cases and 129 fresh deaths from coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, according to the semi-official IRNA news agency.

Ayatollah Seyed Hashem Bathaee, 79, a member of the Assembly of Experts, represented Tehran in the elected 88-member assembly, one of the most influential government bodies in Iran, with the authority to appoint and sack the supreme leader. 

He had been hospitalised since Saturday and died on Monday morning in the holy city of Qom, according to IRNA. 

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Meanwhile, the health ministry announced that the death toll in Iran has reached 853, with a total tally of 14,991 infections. It also said that 4,996 patients have recovered.  

No details were given on the location of the deaths or whether the deceased had underlying health conditions.

Iran is the worst infected country in the Middle East with coronavirus and the third worst globally, after China and Italy. 

The country’s security forces have been ordered to clear streets nationwide to stop the virus spreading further.

The scale of the situation has forced Iran's Central Bank to formally request the International Monetary Fund for a $5bn loan to fight the disease, which has spread to nearly all provinces. 

Illness among leadership

Several Iranian politicians and officials, both sitting and former, have been infected, with some dying from the illness.

The latest high-profile suspected case of infection was Ali Akbar Velayati, who advises Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on foreign policy.

Meanwhile, Iran’s first vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, announced on Monday that he has recovered “from a cold” and tested negative for coronavirus after reports that he had contracted the illness.

Rights groups and Iranian officials have called for the lifting of US sanctions on Iran to enable the country's health sector to combat the pandemic, amid reports of severe shortages of medical supplies.