High-Ranking Iranian cleric dies from coronavirus in Qom

  16 March 2020    Read: 993
High-Ranking Iranian cleric dies from coronavirus in Qom

Iranian Cleric Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei has died after being infected with COVID-19 in the city of Qom, media reported Monday.

Bathaei was admitted into the hospital on Saturday and has become the latest of 14 Iranian officials to fall victim to the pandemic that has ravaged the country, state news agency IRNA reported.

Bathaei was a member of the Assembly of Experts, a religious  body overseeing the Supreme Leader of Iran which can designate or dismiss the top Ayatollah.

The holy city of Qom is among the worst hit in the country, which itself has the highest concentration of cases in the region. Experts believe the abundance of holy sites to which people congregate, and holy objects which believers touch and kiss can be fueling the spread of the virus inside the Islamic Republic.

As of Monday, nearly 14,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the country and over 720 deaths have come as a result. Most infection clusters in nearby Middle Eastern countries can be traced back to travelers from Iran.

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