By Mark Ellis —
One of the highest-ranking officials within Iran’s Shiite theocracy has died as a result of the COVID-19 virus.
Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi, 71, died after becoming infected with the dreaded disease, Iran’s state-run IRNA news reported on Monday. His mother also died of the disease within the last few days.
Mirmohammadi had served as a top official to the previous president and had a close relationship with the current supreme leader Khamenei, which raises a question about whether the ayatollah has been exposed.
The disease – no respecter of rank or privilege – has hit Iran’s top leadership particularly hard.
The virus killed Hadi Khosroshahi, a member of parliament and Iran’s former ambassador to the Vatican.
Those infected include Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar, better known as “Sister Mary,” the spokeswoman during the 444-day hostage crisis in 1979. Also sick is Iraj Harirchi, the head of the government task force on the coronavirus, who diminished the severity of the outbreak until he fell ill.
There are fears the disease is spreading inside Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, which houses 60 percent of jailed Iranian Christians.
Bill Gates has stated he believes COVID-19 bears similarities to the 1918 Spanish flu.
“In the past week, Covid-19 has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about. I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise,” Gates wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Covid-19 is being transmitted with breathtaking efficiency. “The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others — an exponential rate of increase,” Gates noted. “There is also strong evidence that it can be transmitted by people who are just mildly ill or even presymptomatic.
“That means Covid-19 will be much harder to contain than the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which were spread much less efficiently and only by symptomatic people. In fact, Covid-19 has already caused 10 times as many cases as SARS in a quarter of the time.
The regular flu has a death rate of .1 per hundred people. The Spanish Flu had a death rate of 2.5 per hundred. Based on publicly available statistics, the death rate for COVID-19 is 3.3 per hundred – exceeding the Spanish flu.
Some believe governments like China and Iran have lowballed their reporting, to keep panic at bay.
On February 1st, a suburb of Wuhan, Zuoling New Town, reported 11 cases, according to records obtained by the New York Times. “A week later, the government reported 79 cases. By Feb. 11, the number of confirmed infections was 116, including four deaths.
“At that point, officials stopped sharing the information, to the fury of many residents. Some have claimed online that Zuoling has hundreds of infections.”
Iran’s government admits to 1,501 cases, but some researchers think there may be as many as 18,000 infected in the country.
Iranian authorities announced they want to mobilize 300,000 soldiers and volunteers to confront the virus, but will soldiers be able to stanch the spread of a highly infectious pathogen that can be carried by people exhibiting no symptoms?
Saudi Arabia and Jordan announced their first cases of the virus Monday.
The 45-member Expediency Council, which includes officials close to the Supreme Leader, last met in February with Mirmohammadi on hand, according to news sources.
While Iran has closed schools to help arrest the spread of the virus, major Shiite shrines have remained open. The holy cities of Mashhad and Qom have been ravaged by the virus, partly because pilgrims often touch and kiss the shrines as a sign of their faith.