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Iran calls on military to help fight coronavirus

Iran calls on military to help fight coronavirus
© Getty Images

Iran is calling on its military to help with efforts to mitigate the coronavirus as it spreads rapidly across the country.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave the go-ahead to mobilize 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to combat the virus, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

“Whatever helps public health and prevents the spread of the disease is good and what helps to spread it is sin,” Khamenei said at a tree planting for the upcoming arbor day. It was his first time wearing gloves at the annual ceremony, according to the AP.

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The virus has killed 77 people in Iran, making it the deadliest outbreak outside of China, where the first cases were reported.

Iran’s death rate of 3.3 percent is higher than other countries, prompting concerns that there are more unconfirmed infections.

Several Iranian officials have either died or fallen ill from the virus, including 23 members of parliament who are infected, Abdolreza Mesri told Iranian state television’s Young Journalists Club.

“These people have a close relationship with the people and they carry different viruses from different parts of the country, which may create a new virus, so we recommend the lawmakers to cut off their relationship with the public for now,” Mesri said, according to the AP.

Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi’s death from the virus was announced Monday. Iran’s former ambassador to the Vatican, Hadi Khosroshahi, and a recently elected parliament member also died from the coronavirus, the AP reported.

Other country officials who have contracted the virus include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, who is known for being the English-speaking spokeswoman for the protesters at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, and Iraj Harirchi, who leads the Iranian government task force on the coronavirus. Harirchi reportedly tried to downplay the virus before getting sick.

About 2,530 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the Middle East, with the majority connecting back to Iran.

Emirates, the largest Mideast airline, announced there would be decreased and grounded flights due to the threat of the outbreak, according to the AP.