The top advisor of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati has tested positive for novel coronavirus, Iranian news outlets reported on March 12.
Before joining Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's corps of advisors as top foreign policy advisor, Velayati had set a record by presiding over the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for sixteen consecutive years (1981 97).
Seventy-five-year-old Velayati, a pediatrician, is currently the President of Tehran's Masih Daneshvari Hospital, the country's center for treating people infected by the novel coronavirus. Almost all senior officials infected by coronavirus are hospitalized there.
However, according to the hospital's spokesman, Velayati has preferred to be quarantined at his home "after having experienced mild symptoms of coronavirus."
Describing Velayati's condition as "improving," hospital officials have claimed that he was infected with coronavirus while working with the hospital staff, discussing the best ways to contain coronavirus.
Earlier, on February 24, Velayati had told the state-run national TV network that a coronavirus epidemic was not more life-threatening than an influenza outbreak.
"Thank God, the Islamic Republic, its Ministry of Health and medical and educational centers have succeeded to defeat coronavirus," he had insisted, adding, "Inshallah (God willing), coronavirus' curve will soon flatten, and it will be totally contained."
However, when Velayati was sounding upbeat the virus was spreading fast, infecting thousands in thirty out of 31 provinces of Iran.
An ultraconservative politician, Velayati experienced a stint of jail for anti-government activities when he was seventeen, during the monarchy. Nonetheless, after finishing his studies in pediatrics, he was helped by the Royal Government of Iran to secure a fellowship in infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University.
Dozens of Islamic Republic politicians and influential people, including VP Eshaq Jahangiri, deputy President Massoumeh Ebtekar have contracted the disease and several have died.