Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

A top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei died of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus this weekend, Radio Farda reported.

Mohammad Mirmohammadi, 71, a member of the Expediency Council that advises the Supreme Leader, died at a hospital in Tehran, state radio and television announced Monday.

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The country’s Health Ministry reported the same day that 12 more people had died, bringing the official death toll in Iran to 66, although it is suspected that number is actually far higher. The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Iran has reached 1,501, according to the Health Ministry, which said the figure included 523 new cases.

Health Minister Alireza Raeesi told the Mehr news agency that 291 patients who were previously hospitalized have recovered from the virus.

Several parliamentarians are criticizing the government and saying the death toll is much higher than the figures that are being released.

MP Gholam Ali Jafarzadeh Imanabadi of the northern Iranian Gilan Province said all the hospitals in his constituency are filled with coronavirus patients and that one facility, Razi Hospital, has announced it can accept no more. He also said the figures released by the government are “something like a joke” and that the situation in Gilan is even worse than in Qom, where the outbreak began.

In addition, Imanabadi said the cause of death in many cases is not being registered, thus avoiding the need to add the statistic to the coronavirus death toll.

Qom MP Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani has also accused the government of a coverup. He himself has tested positive for the virus, and said that at least ten people die in Qom every day as a result of the illness.

In another attempt to fight the outbreak, on Monday Iran held a Foreign Ministry briefing “online only.”

The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Tehran, meanwhile, has announced that it has begun evacuations in response to the epidemic. “Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain,” said the British Foreign Office.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.