A Tehran official could be the latest person to have contracted the coronavirus in Iran, amid reports that Iran has the highest death toll from the virus outside China.
On February 22, the Club of Young Journalists reported that the mayor of Tehran District 13, Mojtaba Rahmanzadeh, had been infected and hospitalized, which was confirmed by the municipality's public relations department. There are also unconfirmed reports that the mayor had been in contact with the Dutch Foreign Minister before news of his illness emerged. Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had also met with the minister.
The announcement fuelled fears that coronavirus could spread to other officials, including Mohsen Hashemi, the Chair of Tehran's City Council, and several other council members, all of whom Rahmanzadeh met with over the last week.
"I will go to the hospital today for a virus test because of my meeting with the mayor of District 13, who is suspected of being infected with coronavirus, and will stay at home for the time being,” Mohsen Hashimi said on Saturday, February 22.
Hashemi did not entirely observe his self-imposed quarantine, as he cast his vote in the parliamentary elections at Jamaran constituency. Mohammad Javad Zarif, reformist politician Mohammad Reza Aref and former president Mohammad Khatami cast their votes for the elections at the same polling station.
On February 22, Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Dutch Foreign Minister Stephen Blok, who is currently heading a delegation to the country, prompting fears that the virus could be spread among head officials beyond Iran’s borders. If Rahmanzadeh tests positive, Zarif and Blok will be the next to seek medical confirmation of whether they have contracted the virus.
Five people have died from coronavirus in Iran, including in the holy city of Qom, where several cases were identified on Wednesday, February 19. There are reports of 28 people contracting the virus in cities in Tehran, Gilan and Markazi provinces. Hospitals across the country are on high alert, and pharmacies have reported a shortage of face masks.
Qom has been cited as the main focus of Iran’s coronavirus outbreak in Iran, but defense chief Gholamreza Jalali has said it is not yet necessary for the city to be quarantined.
However, Jalali confirmed that the emergency risk had risen to yellow alert across the country,
Officials banned kissing the shrine of the sister of the eighth Shia Imam in Qom, the religious seminary has been shut down, and Nasser Makarem Shirazi, a grand ayatollah in Qom, urged authorities to "read Ashura prayers and Kasa hadiths in every house," to prevent the spread of the disease [Persian links].
Jafar Sobhani, another grand ayatollah, said, "There is definitely an expedience from God that we cannot know.”
The headquarters of Qom Crisis Management ordered the closure of all schools, universities, educational institutions, nurseries, and seminaries in Qom province on February 23 and 24.
Officials in Arak near Qom postponed an indoor archery championship and also ordered schools to be closed for a week.
Across the country, camps, gatherings and student cultural events at medical sciences universities have been canceled until further notice to prevent the spread of the virus.
A group of blind and visually impaired judokas’ trip to Turkey was canceled, as were swimming camps, and a camp at Anzali Iran’s national woodball team had planned to attend; other student camps were postponed elsewhere in the country. Conferences at Payam-e Noor University were also canceled.
The ministry of sport and Iran’s football federation have yet to confirm rumors that club football matches will also be canceled.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance released a statement announcing the closure of all art exhibitions and events and all cinemas for at least a week.
Health minister Saeed Namaki reassured the public that the country’s officials were prepared to deal with the coronavirus.