• A top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei died of coronavirus on Monday.
  • Mohammad Mirmohammadi, 71, is among a growing number of government officials to contract the virus. He is the first to die.
  • Iran has logged more deaths than anywhere outside of China, with 54 confirmed fatalities and 978 infections.
  • Some news reports suggest the number is far higher, and that Iran is covering up the true extent of its outbreak.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A close adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has died of the coronavirus, as the country continues to record a higher death toll than anywhere outside of China.

Mohammad Mirmohammadi, 71, died in hospital in Tehran on Monday, The Associated Press (AP) reported, citing Iranian state radio. Mirmohammadi had been a member of Khamenei’s Expediency Council since 2017.

As of Monday morning, Iran had confirmed 978 infections and 54 deaths. China, which has reported more than 80,000 cases and 3,048 deaths, sent a delegation of experts to Iran to help fight the outbreak.

The situation in Iran is cause for concern, according to the AP, as more than half of the 1,150 cases confirmed across the Middle East can be traced back to the country.

FILE PHOTO: Iranian women wear protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus, as they walk in the street in Tehran, Iran February 25, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Nazanin Tabatabaee via REUTERS

Foto: Iranian women wear protective masks to prevent contracting coronavirus, as they walk in the street in Tehran. Source: Reuters

There are also fears that the death toll amd recorded infections are far higher than the official numbers.

The actual number of infected could be closer to 23,000, according to researchers at the University of Toronto and Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

On Friday, the BBC, citing sources in the country's health system, said the real number of deaths was at least 210.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on said last Tuesday he was "deeply concerned" that Iran "may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak."

"All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations," Pompeo said.

Iran has also been criticized for its efforts to combat the outbreak.

Iran Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Foto: In this picture released by the office of Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the country's diplomats in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. Source: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP

Major Shiite shrines in two of the country's worst hit areas, Mashhad and Qom, have been kept open, despite calls for their closure.

"We have no plan to quarantine any district or any city. We only quarantine individuals," Iran's president Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, according to BBC Monitoring. The situation worsened significantly since his comments.

The World Health Organization said last Monday that the situation in Iran is "deeply concerning."

A number of Iranian government officials have contracted this virus, though Mirmohammadi's death is the first amongst them.

On Tuesday, Iran's deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi revealed he had contacted the virus. The day before he was seen sweating and looking unwell at a press conference.

On Thursday, it was reported that one of Iran's vice presidents, Masoumeh Ebtekar, had contracted the virus. Ebtekar was in a meeting with Rouhani and the Iranian cabinet as recently as Wednesday.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani casts his vote at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Tehran, Iran February 21, 2020. Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS

Foto: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Source: Reuters

As Business Insider's John Haltiwanger reported, Ebtekar is best known as the English-language spokesperson known to the media as "Mary" during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, when Iranian students stormed and occupied the US Embassy in Tehran.

On Friday, it was announced that Iran's first-ever ambassador to the Vatican, Hadi Khosroshahi, had died of coronavirus at the age of 81.