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Iran's vice president has contracted coronavirus, state media says

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s vice president for women and family affairs, has contracted the coronavirus, CBS reported Thursday, citing Iranian state media.

Ebtekar, who served as an English-language spokesperson for Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis after Iranian protesters seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, is reportedly exhibiting only mild symptoms and has not been hospitalized. Ebtekar is the fourth Iranian senior official to contract it.

The nation has seen one of the highest number of coronavirus cases both in the Middle East and in any country outside China, with 254 confirmed cases nationwide and at least 26 deaths. Earlier this week, Tehran announced Iraj Harirchi, the top Iranian official responsible for dealing with the virus, had also contracted it.

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The majority of Iranian cases are concentrated in the city of Qom, a holy city south of Tehran, but last week health ministry official Minou Mohrez said “it’s possible that it exists in all cities in Iran.”

Concerns over the spread of the virus in the Middle East have prompted Saudi Arabia to restrict foreigners traveling to the kingdom for the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca and other holy sites in the faith.

“Saudi Arabia renews its support for all international measures to limit the spread of this virus, and urges its citizens to exercise caution before traveling to countries experiencing coronavirus outbreaks,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement announcing the decision. “We ask God Almighty to spare all humanity from all harm.”