High-ranking Iranian cleric dies from coronavirus in Qom


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An Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, died on Monday after being infected with COVID-19 in the city of Qom.

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

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 at Monday, nearly 14,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the country and over 720 deaths have come as a result.

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Most infection clusters in nearby Middle Eastern countries can be traced back to travelers from Iran.

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