Coronavirus: top aide to Iran's Supreme Leader dies from the virus

Iran now says that 66 have died and 1,501 have the illness

A member of Iran’s advisory council died on Monday after being diagnosed with coronavirus, according to the state media, making him the first top official in Tehran to succumb to the illness.

Mohammad Mirmohammadi, 71, a member of the Expediency Council, passed away at Tehran Hospital, official Iranian news agency Irna reported.

The advisory council meets infrequently and advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on resolving disputes between government bodies.

Tehran raised the number of cases to 1,501 and said that 66 had now died of the virus. The new figures represent 23 more deaths than reported on Saturday and a whopping 908 new cases of infections.

Mr Mirmohammadi's death comes after the number of people around the world who have died from coronavirus reached more than 3,000 on Sunday night.

Other Iranian officials that have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, who is better known as “Mary,” the English-speaking spokeswoman for students who seized the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and sparked the 444-day hostage crisis, state media said.

She is the highest-ranking woman in the government.

Ms Ebtekar usually sits a few seats away from President Hassan Rouhani during cabinet meetings.

The country’s deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, tested positive for the virus last week, a day after he was seen on state television coughing and sweating as Tehran claimed the outbreak is under control.

"I've isolated myself in a place since. A few minutes ago, I was told that my test was final, and now I am starting medication,” Mr Harirchi said in a video.

Iran has the highest number of coronavirus cases outside of China where the disease was first reported.

Besides Mr Harirchi and Ms Ebtekar, other politicians infected include Mojtaba Zolnour, a member of Parliament from Qom, and the  head of Parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee Mahmoud Sadeghi, an outspoken member of Parliament from Tehran, Morteza Rahmanzadeh, the mayor of a Tehran district, Mohamad Reza Ghadir, head of coronavirus management in Qom and director of the city’s state medical university.

Hadi Khosroshahi, a prominent cleric and former ambassador to the Vatican, was also diagnosed.

According to Irna, the official state news agency, Mr Khoroshahi, 81, died last Thursday from the infection.

Schools and universities have closed across the country in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus but several Shiite shrines have remained open despite calls for them to be closed.

The holy cities of Mashhad and Qom in particular, both home to shrines, have been hard-hit by the virus.

Pilgrims often kiss the shrines as part of their faith.

A man was arrested after posting a video of himself licking the Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad, a prominent saint buried in the city, to show that it was safe, state news agency said.

Authorities have been cleaning the shrines with disinfectants to stop the outbreak.