Iran says official who played down virus fears is infected

A pedestrian wears a mask and gloves to help guard against the Coronavirus in downtown Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. The head of Iran's counter-coronavirus task force has tested positive for the virus himself, authorities announced Tuesday, showing the challenges facing the Islamic Republic amid concerns the outbreak may be far wider than officially acknowledged. The announcement comes as countries across the Mideast say they’ve had confirmed cases of the virus that link back to Iran, which for days denied having the virus. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iranian officials say the head of a government task force on the coronavirus has tested positive for the illness himself as new cases from the country rapidly emerge across the Middle East.

On Monday, Iraj Harirchi said at a news conference in Tehran that "the situation is almost stable in the country." As he spoke, he was coughing and sweating heavily.

The acknowledgement of Harirchi's illness underscores a growing crisis of confidence felt by many in Iran about how the government has handled various crises in recent months.

Iran also saw a key air link cut to the United Arab Emirates, home to the world's busiest airport for international travel in Dubai.