Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insists that the coronavirus “is not that big a deal” — although it has killed 77 people in his country, including one of his top aides, and sickened more than 2,300 others.

“This calamity is not that big of a deal, and that there have been bigger ones in the past,” the 80-year-old leader was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency on Tuesday, according to the Daily Mail.

“I do not want to underestimate this issue of course, but let us not overestimate it either,” Khamenei said, as he urged Iranians to pray against the outbreak because “prayer can solve many problems.”

But despite downplaying the disease, Khamenei also ordered the armed forces to help health officials combat the outbreak.

Authorities said they planned to mobilize as many as 300,000 troops and volunteers in the effort to stem the spread of the virus.

“Whatever helps public health and prevents the spread of the disease is good and what helps to spread it is sin,” said Khamenei, who was seen wearing disposable gloves as he planted a tree ahead of arbor day.

State media on Tuesday quoted lawmaker Abdolreza Mesri as saying that 23 members of parliament are among the 2,336 people infected by the deadly illness.

“These people have a close relationship with the people and they carry different viruses from different parts of the country, which may create a new virus, so we recommend the lawmakers to cut off their relationship with the public for now,” Mesri said.

Experts also worry that Iran’s percentage of deaths to infections — now about 3.3 percent — is far higher than other countries’, suggesting that the number of infections in Iran may far exceed current figures.

On Monday, Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital, becoming the first top official to succumb to the illness in the Islamic Republic, which has the highest death toll outside China.

Other key officials who have been sickened are Masoumeh Ebtekar, a vice president better known as “Sister Mary,” who served as spokeswoman for the students who seized the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Also ailing is Iraj Harirchi, the head of a government task force on the coronavirus who initially tried to downplay the pathogen.

Source » nypost