TEHRAN — Dubbed "the Prophet's perfume," Shia clerics in Iran are offering a chillingly wrong response to the coronavirus outbreak. Iran's Medical System Organization lodged a formal protest this week against clerics entering hospitals to administer a liquid remedy directly to patients' lips and mouth area, according to the Farsi service of Voice of America.

Video footage showed a cleric circulating among what are estimated to be hundreds of patients, touting "Islamic medicine" as a better response to the pandemic. Doctors warn that the clerics can become carriers, bringing the virus outside hospitals to the faithful elsewhere. The outbreak in Iran is one of the worst in the world. The health ministry reported Friday that the country's death toll had risen to 2,378, with total confirmed infections total at 32,332 cases.

Over the past several weeks, there have been incidents of Shia faithful defying government orders to close mosques and religious shrines to limit the spread of the virus. "The believers are concerned about their identity, especially when scientific research clashes with religion," Haidar Hoballah, a senior teacher at the seminary in the holy city of Qom, told Middle East news site Al-Monitor.

Reacting to these and other reports of clerics touting their own remedies against COVID-19, Iranian Health Minister Sa'id Namaki urged citizens not to think Islamic or traditional medicine could combat coronavirus.

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