Iran's VP for Women and Family Affairs Tests Positive for Coronavirus

Deputy health minister Iraj Harirshi also contracted the virus as the death toll in the Islamic republic rises to 26

Vice President of Iran for Women and Family Affairs, Massoumeh Ebtekar, speaks to reporters during a press conference in the Islamic republic's capital Tehran, January 29, 2019.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, the Iranian vice president for women and family affairs, has become the Islamic Republic's most prominent coronavirus patient, according to a report by state news agency IRNA on Thursday.

She is currently under medical supervision at home.

All of the members of Ebtekar's team will now undergo testing for the virus.

She is the second member of the Iranian government known to be infected, after deputy health minister Iraj Harirshi, originally tasked with containing the spread of the virus, tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday.

Earlier that day, the country's Health Ministry said the number of people who have died from the coronavirus in Iran has risen to 26.

A total of 245 people across the country have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said, representing a jump of 110 from the day before.

Fifty-four patients are said to have recovered and have been been sent back to their homes, the IRNA news agency reported earlier.

Elham Sheikhi, a well-known Iranian female footballer who played for the national team, died of the virus at the age of 23, according to a report in Rokna, a news portal. She reportedly died on Wednesday in Qom, after becoming infected last week.

The outbreak in Iran has led the virus to spread across the Gulf region.

Kuwait on Thursday confirmed 17 more cases of the new coronavirus, taking the total number of infections in the country to 43, according to the Health Ministry.

All the affected persons have recently returned from Iran, ministry official Buthaina al-Mudhaf said.

"They all are in stable condition," she added, according to Kuwait's news agency KUNA.

On Wednesday, Kuwait, an oil-rich country of around 4.5 million people, announced that is was shutting schools and universities for two weeks in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading.

Iraq, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have also recorded cases that appear to have been imported from Iran, alongside other cases of infection not apparently linked to the Islamic Republic.

Saudi Arabia said it would temporarily suspend entry for people wanting to complete the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca or to visit the Prophet's Mosque in Medina as a precaution against the coronavirus outbreak. The much larger Hajj pilgrimage is expected to start in late July.