Iranian Lawmaker Dies of Coronavirus as Infections Spread

Arsalan Shahla and Thomas Buckley

(Bloomberg) -- An Iranian lawmaker died from the new coronavirus, the first member of parliament to succumb to the disease, as the government reported another surge in infections.

Fatemeh Rahbar, 55, went into a coma on Thursday and never recovered, the Islamic Republic News Agency said. Rahbar, elected in February, is the nation’s seventh political figure to die from Covid-19 as Iran fights to contain its spread.

The number of cases jumped more than 20% to 5,823, a health ministry spokesman said Saturday on state television. There were 21 additional deaths, bringing the total to 145 -- third highest in the world.

Iran is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, and the country now has the most infections after China and South Korea, led by 1,539 cases in Tehran’s province. At least 23 Iranian legislators have tested positive for the infection.

Lawmakers in other nations are also infected. The head of Italy’s Democratic Party, the nation’s second-biggest, on Saturday said he’s tested positive. Nicola Zingaretti, 54, said he will stay home for a few days.

Iran’s local schools and universities are closed, major cultural and sporting events were suspended and nationwide working hours have been reduced to slow the contagion, which has spread to all 31 Iranian provinces. So far, 1,669 of Iran’s patients have recovered.

Rahbar was a conservative politician poised to represent the constituency that includes Tehran in the upcoming parliament. She was among the top local candidates in the party, which won February’s general election by a sweeping majority amid the lowest turnout in the republic’s history.

A three-term lawmaker, Rahbar was among 17 women elected to Iran’s 290-seat Majlis. Between 2012 and 2016, she headed the women’s political faction within parliament.

Rahbar’s husband, son, daughter and son-in-law had already been released from hospital also also being infected by the coronavirus.

--With assistance from Golnar Motevalli.

To contact the reporters on this story: Arsalan Shahla in Tehran at ashahla@bloomberg.net;Thomas Buckley in London at tbuckley25@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Eric Pfanner at epfanner1@bloomberg.net, Gordon Bell

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