One of Iran's vice presidents has been infected with coronavirus

insider@insider.com (John Haltiwanger)
·3 min read

Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Masoumeh Ebtekar delivers a speech during the opening session of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015.

  • Masoumeh Ebtekar, one of Iran's vice presidents, has coronavirus.

  • Ebtekar is perhaps best known outside of Iran for her role as a spokesperson for Iranian students who took dozens of hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran in the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

  • Over two dozen people have died from coronavirus in Iran.

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Iran vice president
Stephane Mahe/Reuters

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iranian vice president for women and family affairs, has been infected with coronavirus, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.

Ebtekar is the first member of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's cabinet to be infected with the novel (new) coronavirus. She was in a meeting with Rouhani and the Iranian cabinet as recently as Wednesday.

Other Irianian officials, including Iran's deputy health minister, Iraj Harirchi, have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Harirchi on Monday appeared to be physically uncomfortable and unwell during a press conference.

Over two dozen people have died from coronavirus in Iran thus far since the outbreak hit there, marking the highest death toll from the virus outside of China.

The virus, which causes a respiratory disease known as COVID-19, has so far killed over 2,800 and infected over 82,000 worldwide. Though the vast majority of cases are in China, where the virus originated, it's now spread to at least 40 other countries.

Ebtekar was the English-language spokesperson known to the media as "Mary" during the Iranian hostage crisis, when Iranian students stormed and occupied the US Embassy in Tehran.

The hostage crisis began in November 1979 during the Islamic Revolution. Initially, 66 American hostages were taken, but that number dwindled t0 52 by July 1980 as hostages were released for various reasons. The crisis lasted for 444 days, ending on January, 20, 1981.

Iran and the US have been adversaries ever since.

The US is taking steps to prepare for coronavirus after the Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention (CDC) warned that its spread in the US was inevitable. The first possible case of community spread of the virus was detected in California on Wednesday.

According to the CDC: "Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown." But the CDC also said it's possible that the patient in California may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected.

President Donald Trump has faced bipartisan criticism over his approach to coronavirus thus far, and public health experts have raised serious concerns over the contradictory messaging from his administration on the threat posed to the US. Trump has sought to downplay the impact coronavirus will have in the US as the CDC tells Americans to expect "severe" disruptions.

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