Iran's parliament speaker tests positive for coronavirus

Ali Larijani becomes latest high-ranking Iranian official to contract COVID-19.

Elad Benari ,

Ali Larijani
Ali Larijani

Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, becoming the latest high-ranking official to contract the disease in the country, AFP reports.

Larijani "was tested for coronavirus after showing certain symptoms, and as the result was positive, he is currently in quarantine and undergoing treatment," the report said.

Larijani, 62, is close to the Iranian leadership and President and was re-elected in 2016 for a second term as parliament speaker. He is one of the most senior officials to be infected so far.

Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Middle East from the coronavirus, and on Thursday reported 124 new deaths, raising its total to 3,160 with more than 50,000 people infected.

The announcement came as President Hasan Rouhani warned at a cabinet meeting that the country may still battle the pandemic for another year.

At least 17 regime figures in Iran have died from coronavirus and 12 others have been infected since the beginning of the outbreak in the Islamic Republic.

High-profile deaths in Iran from the coronavirus include a member of the council advising the Ayatollah, a former ambassador, a newly-elected member of parliament, an adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and a re-elected member of parliament.

A top adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati, was also reported to have been infected with the virus.

Ayatollah Hashem Bathayi Golpayegani, a member of the Assembly of Experts that appoints and monitors Khamenei, died from the virus.

Larijani, like many other senior Iranian officials, has verbally attacked Israel in the past.

In 2017, he described Israel as “aggressive and racist” and said it will always remain a source of threat to the nations in the Middle East and humanity in general.

He has in the past referred to Israel as a “cancer” and once boasted of the fact that Iran provided Hamas with the technology it has used to rain down rockets on Israel from Gaza.