Coronavirus kills member of Iran’s top clerical body

TEHRAN: Iran’s coronavirus outbreak on Monday killed a member of the clerical body that appoints the supreme leader, state media said, taking the death toll among serving and ex-officials to at least 12.
Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi Golpayegani, who was 78, died two days after testing positive for the COVID-19 disease and being hospitalised, state news agency IRNA reported.
The official represented Tehran in the Assembly of Experts, an 88-strong body of clerics that appoints and monitors Iran’s supreme leader.
At least 12 Iranian politicians and officials, both sitting and former, have now died of the illness, and 13 more have been infected and are either in quarantine or being treated.
The virus also killed a prominent economist and political activist on Monday, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.
Fariborz Rais-Dana, 71, succumbed to the illness after being hospitalised for six days, ISNA reported.
A prolific writer with a PhD from the London School of Economics, he had spent time in prison after being convicted of spreading propaganda against the system.
Iran has been scrambling to contain the rapid spread of coronavirus which so far has infected nearly 14,000 people and killed over 720, according to official figures.
The number of coronavirus deaths and infections have been on the rise ever since the first two fatalities were announced on February 19.
According to the health ministry, the rising trend is due to the increasing number of tests being carried out.
It says many patients started showing symptoms days after they were infected.
Official tolls, which are given every 24 hours, have usually lagged behind reports by local media and have sometimes been contradicted by provincial authorities. — AFP