The speaker of Iran’s parliament, veteran politician Ali Larijani, has tested positive for coronavirus and is in quarantine, the legislature’s public affairs office said yesterday.

Bloomberg notes that Larijani is the most senior Iranian official to contract the virus, joining two dozen MPs, a vice president and various ministry officials.

After running parliament for 12 years, Larijani didn’t contest this year’s elections and is due to be replaced as speaker. But his successor is yet to be appointed as the country battles one of the world’s worst virus outbreaks.

As a lawmaker, Larijani represented the city of Qom, where Iran’s first virus cases were detected. 

Citing head of Iran's Health Ministry Public Relations Office Kianoush Jahanpour, IRNA yesterday reported 124 new deaths from the coronavirus in Iran, raising its total to 3,160 with more than 50,000 people infected. The Iranian official noted that 3,956 cases are in critical condition.

The announcement came as President Hasan Rouhani warned at a cabinet meeting that the country may still battle the pandemic for another year.

"Coronavirus is not something for which we can point to a certain date and say it will be completely eradicated by then," he said.

Rouhani said the virus "may be with us in upcoming months, or until the end" of the current Iranian year, in March 2021.

The virus has not spared Iranian lawmakers or other officials.

A parliament spokesman told the Tasnim news agency Tuesday that at least 23 of the legislature's 290 members have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

France 24 reports that according Iranian official report, COVID-19 has also killed at least 12 serving or former government officials.

Tehran decided last week to ban all intercity travel until at least April 8.  Iran has closed schools and universities as well as four key Shiite pilgrimage sites, including the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom, Iran's epicenter for the virus.  It has also discouraged travel, cancelled the main weekly Friday prayers and temporarily closed parliament.