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Iran’s deputy health minister, Tehran lawmaker hit by coronavirus

A health worker wore a protective suit at the infectious disease clinic in Zagreb, Croatia, where the first coronavirus case in Croatia is hospitalized, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Croatia confirmed its first case of coronavirus in a man who had been to Milan, the capital of Lombardy, Italy. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s deputy health minister and a reformist politician have reported they have tested positive for the new coronavirus as the crisis over the outbreak continued to mount in the country.

Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi and Mahmud Sadeghi, a member of parliament, separately confirmed on February 25 that they have been stricken by the COVID-19 virus, which has already killed at least 16 people in Iran and infected dozens of others.

Harirchi, who has been vocal in attempting to reassure citizens amid the crisis, was seen coughing and wiping sweat from his face during a video news conference in Tehran.

“I, too, have been infected with coronavirus,” Harirchi said in the video that appeared shot by himself.

“I had a fever as of last night, and my preliminary test was positive around midnight,” he said.

“I’ve isolated myself in a place since. A few minutes ago, I was told that my test was final, and now I am starting medication.”

Meanwhile, Sadeghi, who represents Tehran in parliament, wrote on Twitter that “my corona test is positive…I don’t have a lot of hope of continuing life in this world.”

He also urged Iranian authorities to release the country’s political prisoners to allow them to stay with family during the outbreak to prevent them from becoming infected.

Sadeghi, who in the past has accused the government of not taking the crisis seriously, urged authorities to “gain public confidence by telling the truth.”

Iran has said 16 people have died from the coronavirus and that 95 others have been infected, although many people have expressed concerns that Tehran is underreporting the figures.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 25 that “the United States was deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country.”

Harirchi, who has previously disputed allegations of underreporting, said in his video that “I wanted to tell you that…we will definitely be victorious against this virus in the next few weeks.”.

Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew this week after sharp rises in new cases in Iran, Italy, and South Korea. The virus has infected more than 80,000 people globally, causing around 2,700 deaths, mainly in China.