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Media captionIraj Harirchi mopped his brow at a news conference before testing positive for coronavirus disease.Iran’s deputy health minister and an MP have both tested positive for the new coronavirus disease, as it struggles to contain an outbreak that has killed 15.The senior health official, Iraj Harirchi, said in a video that he was self-isolating and starting medication.He was seen mopping his brow repeatedly at a news conference on Monday, when he denied the authorities were lying about the scale of the Covid-19 outbreak.They have reported 95 cases, but the actual number is thought to be higher.The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said the sudden increase in cases in the country is “deeply concerning”.More people have died in Iran from the virus than anywhere else outside China.It is one of three global hot-spots causing great concern among health experts that the virus could be developing into a pandemic. The others are South Korea and northern Italy, where cases have surged in recent days.
Iran’s president has urged people to comply with the health ministry’s directives
On Tuesday an MP from the Iranian capital Tehran, Mahmoud Sadeghi, also said he had tested positive for the virus.”I don’t have a lot of hope of continuing life in this world,” the 57-year-old tweeted. More than 80,000 cases of the Covid-19 respiratory disease have been reported worldwide since it emerged last year. About 2,700 patients have died – the vast majority in China.But the situation in Iran – home to holy sites that attract millions every year and in a region where several countries have weak health systems – has caused great concern about a mass outbreak in the Middle East.
Conflict between religion and scienceBy Rana Rahimpour, BBC PersianThe reports that we are receiving from cities around Iran suggest that the number of cases is actually much higher than the Iranian authorities are giving.Unlike in Italy, Iranian officials are refusing to impose quarantines in areas affected by the outbreak. They say quarantines are old-fashioned and that they do not believe in them. The Shia shrines in the cities of Qom and Mashhad are still open, despite Qom being a hotbed of the virus. There are grand ayatollahs in Qom who believe that its shrine, which attracts millions of pilgrims from around the world, and its important seminary, which hosts many foreign religious students, are the pride of the Shia world.
Teams are disinfecting public spaces in Qom, including the shrine of Hazrat Masumeh
Shutting them down would be a huge step for the clerics and not one that they would be likely take unless they come under international pressure. We can see the clear conflict between religious fundamentalism and science. Iran also lacks the medical equip