TEHRAN, Iran — An Iranian lawmaker died from the novel coronavirus on Saturday, state news agency IRNA reported, one of several officials to succumb to the illness in the epidemic-hit country.
Fatemeh Rahbar, 55, was a conservative MP and had recently been elected to the parliament from the capital Tehran, the agency said.
She is the second lawmaker killed by the virus in Iran and one of seven politicians and government officials who have died in the outbreak since the country reported its first cases in mid-February.
Rahbar was among the top candidates in Tehran for the conservatives, who overwhelmingly won February’s general election marked by the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamamd Javad Zarif later said American sanctions — reimposed from 2018, after Washington pulled out of a multilateral nuclear deal — were undermining Iran’s battle against the coronavirus.
US President Donald Trump “is maliciously tightening US’ illegal sanctions with the aim of draining Iran’s resources needed in the fight against #COVID-19 — while our citizens are dying from it” Zarif tweeted on Saturday.
“The world can no longer be silent as US #EconomicTerrorism is supplanted by its #MedicalTerrorism,” he said.
Iran has been scrambling to contain the rapid spread of the virus and on Saturday reported 21 new deaths and 1,076 fresh cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the overall tolls to 145 dead and 5,823 infected.
“More than 16,000 people are currently hospitalized as suspect cases,” health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised news conference as he announced the tolls.
He added that 1,669 of confirmed cases have recovered from the illness.
Iran has closed schools and universities, suspended major cultural and sporting events and reduced working hours across the country to slow the contagion, which has spread to all of its 31 provinces.