Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani has contracted the coronavirus,
the highest-ranking official among several senior government figures to catch the disease, as several top Israeli officials entered quarantine after Israel's health minister tested positive on Thursday.
The parliament in Iran, the regional epicenter of the coronavirus, announced Larijani's illness on its website, saying he was receiving treatment in quarantine.
The Middle East has over 82,000 confirmed cases of the virus and over 3,600 deaths, most of them in Iran. Iran's Health Ministry said Thursday that the new coronavirus killed another 124 people, pushing the country's death toll to 3,160.
In a rare acknowledgment of the severity of the outbreak by a senior Iranian official, President Hassan Rouhani said the new coronavirus may remain through the end of the Iranian year, which just began late last month, state TV reported Thursday.
"We always have to follow the health protocols provided by the health ministry," Rouhani added.