The head of Iran’s emergency services has become the highest-ranking official so far to be infected in the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Pirhossein Kolivand is the latest official to become a virus patient in an outbreak which has also infected eight per cent of Iran’s parliament.

It came as Iran announced another 11 deaths today along with 835 new virus patients in the largest single-day increase in cases since the virus reached the country.

The latest figures were announced by stand-in deputy health minister Alireza Raisi, after regular minister Iraj Harirchi himself came down with the virus.

It brings the official tally in Iran to 2,336 cases and 77 deaths, although there is suspicion that the regime’s numbers may be too low.

Iranian lawmaker Abdolreza Mesri said today that 23 members of parliament have been infected, according to state TV.

There are only 290 members of the legislative body, meaning that 7.9 per cent of them have now come down with the virus.

One top official has already been killed by the virus: 72-year-old Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a member of the Expediency Council which advises Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Health minister Harirchi was diagnosed last week after sweating and coughing during a press conference where he played down the scale of the outbreak.

Iran’s death rate has now fallen to 3.3 per cent, but is still higher than the global figure of around two per cent.

The high death rate has previously raised suspicion that the number of patients is greater than the Iranian regime is willing to admit.

Supreme leader Khamenei said Iran was being transparent with its figures on the outbreak and accused other countries of trying to conceal them.

‘The coronavirus has affected many countries,’ he was quoted as saying on his official Twitter account.

‘Our officials have reported with sincerity and transparency since day one.

‘However, some countries where the outbreak has been more serious have tried to hide it.

‘Of course, we ask God to heal the sick in those countries too,’ he added.

Khamenei also declared that ‘this calamity is not that big of a deal, and there have been bigger ones in the past’.

‘I do not want to underestimate this issue of course, but let us not overestimate it either,’ he said, according to Mehr news agency. He added that it will affect the country for a while and then be over.

Despite this, Khamenei put the Islamic Republic’s armed forces on alert today to assist health officials in combating the outbreak.

Khamenei has also called on Iranians to stick to hygiene guidelines to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading.

‘The health care guidelines for preventing infection from this virus should be observed,’ said Khamenei, who was seen on state television wearing gloves as he planted a tree.

Iran on Saturday dismissed a report that the real number of coronavirus deaths in the country was more than 200.

The United States and Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders have accused Iran of concealing information about the outbreak.

Iran faced anger from its own citizens over an attempted cover-up just last month, after claiming falsely that a passenger jet with dozens of Iranians on board had crashed by accident.

The plane was actually shot down by Iranian Revolutionary Guards at the height of Tehran’s stand-off with Washington after the death of Qassem Soleimani.

Iran is also battling medical shortages which are worsened by U.S. sanctions, with masks and testing kits in short supply.

The clerical establishment has refused to stop the holy city of Qom despite the Shi’ite city suffering the brunt of the outbreak and pilgrims spreading the virus across the Middle East.

The Fatima Masumeh shrine, which has remained open and is disinfected daily, attracts Shi’ites from across Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Bahrain and other countries.

Source » dailymail