Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iranian vice president for women and family affairs has recently contracted the coronavirus which has spreading around the world in recent months.
News of Ebtekar’s coronavirus diagnosis was first reported by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and then by the Associated Press on Thursday.
Ebtekar gained prominence as “Mary,” the English spokeswoman for Iranian hostage takers at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The hostage situation lasted 444 days from Nov. 4, 1979 to Jan. 20, 1981.
Ebtekar has since risen within the revolutionary government and became one of the countries vice presidents.
Sky News reported Ebtekar’s symptoms are mild and she has not yet been admitted to a hospital.
Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s Deputy Health Minister, was also reportedly diagnosed with coronavirus on Tuesday as was Mahmud Sadeghi, a member of Iran’s parliament. Sadeghi previously raised concerns about Iran not taking the coronavirus outbreak seriously.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday, “The United States was deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country.”
The coronavirus, which originated in China, has spread to numerous countries throughout the world. While China has the majority of cases and deaths as a result of the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, Iran is country with the second highest number of coronavirus deaths.
Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, reported the number of coronavirus deaths within the country at 26, on Thursday. Those deaths number among 245 overall confirmed cases of the virus.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia banned Iranian and other foreign pilgrims from entering the country to visit Iran’s holy sites, such as Mecca. The decision to bar pilgrimage to Mecca and the holy cube-shaped Kaaba could affect many faithful Muslims who, if able-bodied, are required by their religion to visit the holy site at least once in their lifetime. Many pilgrims save for most of their lives to afford the trip to visit Mecca.
Saudi officials raised concerns about the virus spreading as it has in the Iranian holy city of Qom, which has since become an epicenter of the virus in Iran. The practice of visiting holy sites often involves pilgrims touching and kissing the religious shrines. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that the coronavirus can be contracted by touching surfaces where the virus exists before touching ones mouth, nose or eyes.
Iran’s holy sites have remained open despite their ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.