Ali Rabiei, the Cabinet Spokesman of the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, has been hospitalized after testing positive for corornavirus, the state-run television reported on Monday.
Rabiei had been resting at home since last week, the report said but did not say when the symptoms had appeared or since when the Spokesman's health condition has worsened.
He is the fourth member of the cabinet after first vice president Es'haq Jahangir, vice-president in Women's Affairs Masoumeh Ebtekar and Cultural Heritage and Tourism Minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan who has contracted the virus.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry Spokesperson Sima-Sadat Lari on Monday said over the past 24 hours 212 more died of COVID-19 bringing the official death toll since the outbreak of the epidemic in February to 15,912. Over the same reporting period 2,434 new cases were identified which bring the total official number of cases to 293,606.
Dr. Lari said of the country's 31 provinces 25 are now designated as hotspots or "red zones". The official coronavirus statistics offered by the government has been widely challenged even by the Parliament Research Center which estimated the real number of victims as double the number announced officially.
The coronavirus situation in the country has hugely deteriorated since mid-June when deaths first passed the 100 mark after two months and then rose to above 200. Circumstances are particularly alarming in the capital Tehran where according to Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi on Sunday 600 new COVID-19 are referred to hospitals every day with a 5 to 10 percent death rate.
However, a City Council member, Nahid Khodakarami, has painted a much grimmer picture saying over the past two days 234 residents of the capital died of COVID-19 and were buried in the city's massive Behesht-e Zahra cemetery.
On Saturday President Hassan Rouhani said despite the pandemic the traditional mourning ceremonies of the month of Muharram which play a very significant role in Shiite Iran should not be abandoned but care must be taken to prevent the spread of the disease by strict observance of health protocols including social distancing rules and wearing of masks.
The month of Muharram in the Islamic lunar calendar which this year starts on 20 August marks several important occasions for Shiites including Ashura and Arbain mourning ceremonies.
Iran's religious establishment has staunchly resisted imposing restrictions on religious gatherings and closure of mosques and shrines.
Many including conservative Ahmad Tavakoli (also spelled as Tavvakoli and Tavakkoli), have urged people to drop the crowded ceremonies and processions and instead honor the occasions at home. He is a member of the Expediency Council and the founder of the popular conservative website Alef.
On Sunday moderate conservative cleric Masih Mohajeri who is the managing director of Etela'at newspaper in an editorial criticized Rouhani's remarks and said he must put aside all considerations and as the commander of the Coronavirus Combat Taskforce issue the order to impose restrictions, particularly in regard to gatherings.
Iran has the biggest number of cases and deaths in the Middle East and was the second country with a major outbreak in February.