Iran confirms one death, ten new cases of coronavirus
The updates numbers announced by health ministry spokesman, Kianush Jahanpur, bring the total number of cases in the Islamic Republic to 28, five of which have died.
The COVID-19 outbreak first appeared in Iran on Wednesday, when officials said it killed two elderly people in the Shia holy city of Qom. It remains unknown how the virus spread to the country.
They were the first confirmed deaths from the disease in the Middle East.
On Friday, Iran reported new cases across the country, including "seven in Qom, four in Tehran, and two in Gilan" on the Caspian Sea coast, Jahanpour tweeted.
"Most of the cases are still either Qom residents" or were people who had come from Qom to other provinces "in recent days and weeks", he added.
He did not comment on the suspected origins of the outbreak in the Islamic republic.
He added that Iran had so far received from the World Health Organization four shipments of medical kits used to detect COVID-19.
Qom is a centre for Islamic studies and tourists, attracting scholars from Iran and beyond.
Video footage emerged on social media on Thursday purported to show Farghani Hospital in Qom being evacuated and prepared to deal with coronavirus patients.
However, a government official said the first two people who died of the disease had not left Iran.
The COVID-19 virus was found in a 45-year-old Lebanese woman who had travelled from Qom in Iran, he said.
A medical source at the hospital where the woman is being treated told AFP that she returned from Iran with a high fever, but that her immunity was good and her condition stable.
Hamad Hassan said that all the people who were on the same flight from Iran had been contacted by the health authorities.
He said that anyone returning from Iran would be asked to observe a two-week home quarantine.
Thousands of Lebanese travel to Iran every year to visit Shia holy sites in Qom and other cities.
Iran's health sector has been hit by sanctions imposed by the United States since Washington withdrew in 2018 from a landmark nuclear deal between the Islamic republic and world powers.
Coronavirus Spread in the Middle East
Following the announcement of the deaths, Iraq on Thursday clamped down on travel to and from the Islamic republic.
The health ministry in Baghdad said people from Iran had been barred from entering Iraq "until further notice".
Kuwait's national carrier Kuwait Airways also announced it would suspend all of its flights to Iran.
The United Arab Emirates last month became the first country in the Middle East to report cases of the coronavirus strain. It now has nine cases.
Egypt has also reported one case.
Israel on Friday became the latest country in the region to confirm a case of coronavirus, in a citizen who flew home from Japan after being quarantined on a stricken cruise ship.
The outbreak has now claimed 2,345 lives in China, the epicentre of the virus, and infected more than 76,000 people.
World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the "window of opportunity" to contain the international spread of the outbreak was "narrowing", as cases surged across the Middle East and in South Korea.
He cautioned that if countries did not quickly mobilise to fight the reach of the virus, "this outbreak could go in any direction. It could even be messy."
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