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27 Feb, 2020 19:07

Former Iranian ambassador to Vatican succumbs to coronavirus in first high-profile death of the epidemic

Former Iranian ambassador to Vatican succumbs to coronavirus in first high-profile death of the epidemic

Iran’s former ambassador to the Vatican, prominent cleric Hadi Khosrowshahi, has died of coronavirus after being treated in hospital, according to state media. He is the highest-profile casualty of the epidemic so far.

Khoswrowshahi, 81, died in hospital on Thursday, bringing the country’s death toll up to 26. There are 245 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iran, including a handful of government officials. The deputy health minister, vice president for women and family affairs, and head of Iran’s parliamentary security and foreign relations commission have all tested positive for the virus. At least 24 Iranians have recovered from the disease following treatment, state media report.

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The epidemic is proving unusually virulent in Iran, forcing the closure of schools and universities and, as of Wednesday, the partial closure of some Shiite holy sites. President Hassan Rouhani has warned against allowing the epidemic to become a “weapon for the enemies,” quashing rumors about cities being quarantined. “The virus is being reined in and the number of people going to hospitals has decreased dramatically,” he said on Tuesday, praising the work of medical professionals across the country.

Coronavirus has infected upwards of 82,000 people worldwide, upending everything from the global economy to religious ritual, forcing border closures, and severing transit routes. Saudi Arabia imposed a ban on religious pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina earlier this week, announcing no more pilgrims and tourists seeking to visit the holy shrines would be permitted entry until further notice. The Dow plunged over 900 points in the US, while the IMF has revised growth forecasts for China’s economy downward 0.6 percent. Oxford Economics has predicted as much as $1.1 trillion could be wiped out of global GDP for 2020 due to the epidemic.

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