A member on the advisory council for Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei died Monday after falling ill from the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.
Mohammad Mirmohammadi, who sat on the Expediency Council, which advises the supreme leader and settles disputes between Parliament and the Guardian Council, died at a north Tehran hospital, according to state media. In the past, he had also served as the head of the presidency under former Presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ali Khamenei.
Mirmohammadi, 71, became the first top official to die as a result of the virus in Iran, which has the highest death toll outside of the epicenter in China. As of Monday, 66 people have reportedly died in the country and more than 1,500 have tested positive for the virus. In response, Iran is set to mobilize 300,000 troops to combat the virus.
Coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, continues to wreak havoc in Iran, having infected several of the country's key government officials.
According to the Associated Press:
Those sick include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, better known as "Sister Mary," the English-speaking spokeswoman for the students who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and sparked the 444-day hostage crisis, state media reported. Also sick is Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.
Experts are concerned that the coronavirus outbreak in Iran may be much worse than government officials have been letting on. Despite their attempts to downplay the seriousness of the situation, doctors in the country have expressed concern that the virus has reached "epidemic" level.
The country's percentage of deaths to infections — now at around 4.4% — is significantly higher than other countries dealing with an outbreak, leading experts to wonder if Iran is underreporting the extent of the outbreak.
Over the weekend, the death toll in Iran from the coronavirus jumped by 11 in a single day.