Iran says coronavirus death toll reaches 16, 95 infected

An Iranian woman wearing face mask walks on a street of Teheran, Iran, on Feb 24, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

DUBAI (REUTERS) - Two more people infected with the new coronavirus have died, taking the toll in Iran to 16, a Health Ministry official told state TV on Tuesday (Feb 25).

Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.

"Among those who had been suspected of the virus, 35 have been confirmed and two died of the coronavirus infection," said Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. He said 95 people had been infected across Iran.

The Health Ministry urged Iranians to stay at home.

Iran said on Monday 900 cases were suspected, dismissing claims by a lawmaker from the holy Shi'ite city of Qom who said 50 people had died in the city, the epicentre of the new coronavirus outbreak.

"It is an uninvited and inauspicious visitor. God willing we will get through ... this virus," said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a televised speech.

Iran, which confirmed its first two deaths last week in Qom, has yet to say how many people it has quarantined, but the semi-official Mehr news agency said 320 people had been hospitalised.

The outbreak in Iran comes as its clerical rulers face mounting US pressure that has hit the economy hard.

In 2018, the United States exited Teheran's nuclear deal with major powers and reimposed sanctions on the country.

The virus outbreak threatens to isolate Iran further, with several countries suspending flights after coronavirus cases in travellers from Iran were confirmed in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some neighbouring countries have closed their borders. The United Arab Emirates state news agency reported on Tuesday that Dubai International Airport had suspended all flights to and from Iran.

Oman's Khasab port is suspending the import and export of goods to and from Iran from Feb 26 because of the coronavirus outbreak, operator Marafi said on Twitter.


Six Arab countries have reported their first cases of coronavirus, with those infected all having links to Iran.

Kuwait said on Tuesday the number of infected people there had risen to eight. Bahrain said it had eight cases, four were Saudi nationals and two Bahrainis.

Iranian authorities have ordered the nationwide cancellation of concerts and soccer matches and the closure of schools and universities in many provinces.

The head of Qom's Medical Science University, Mr Mohammad Reza Ghadir, expressed concern over "the spread of those people infected by the virus across the city", adding the Health Ministry had banned releasing figures linked to the coronavirus.

Many Iranians took to social media to accuse authorities of concealing the facts.

Popular anger has been high for months over the handling of a Ukrainian passenger plane crash in January, which the military took three days to admit was caused by an Iranian missile fired in error.

It revived anti-government protests that rocked the country in November against a hike in fuel prices, which swiftly turned political with calls for Iran's rulers to step down, before authorities cracked down.

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