Financial Tribune – Iran’s Health Ministry announced on Friday that 13 more people have been detected with the new Coronavirus that originated in central China, out of whom two have succumbed to the illness.
The latest update brings the total number of confirmed cases of the virus in Iran to 18, of whom four have died.
Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry, said seven new cases belong to the central city of Qom, four infected people have been hospitalized in Tehran and two are in Gilan Province, explaining that all cases either live in Qom or have been to the holy city recently, IRNA reported.
All schools and universities, including religious seminaries, have been shut down in the holy city of Qom.
Iran had recently evacuated 60 Iranian students from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the epidemic.
Qom, located 140 kilometers south of the capital Tehran, is a popular religious destination and a center of learning and religious studies for both Iranian and foreign Shia Muslims. The latter are mostly from Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan Republic.
Jahanpour had announced on Thursday five cases of the virus, including two elderly Iranian citizens who had died in Qom on Wednesday.
These cases mainly involved Iranians residing in Qom, with one of the infected having visited the city of Arak.
Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, Iran’s deputy health minister, said they did not appear to have had any contact with Chinese nationals.
Iranian authorities were now investigating the source of the disease’s entry into the country, and its possible link with religious pilgrims from Pakistan or other countries.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the roughly 60 Iranian students evacuated from Wuhan had been quarantined upon their return to Iran and were discharged after 14 days without any health problems.
Iran once relied heavily on China to buy its oil and some Chinese companies have continued doing business with Iran in the face of US sanctions.
The new virus emerged in Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province in December. Since then, more than 75,000 people have been infected globally, with more than 2,000 deaths being reported, mostly in China, according to the AP.
The new virus comes from a large family of coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal.
The World Health Organization recently named the illness it causes COVID-19, referring to both coronavirus and its origin late last year.
There have been few virus cases in the Middle East so far. Nine cases have been confirmed in the UAE, which is a popular tourist destination, and one case in Egypt. Of the nine in the UAE, seven are Chinese nationals, one is a Filipino and another an Indian national.
Iran’s neighbor Iraq, which has reported no cases of the virus, took measures to contain it by suspending visas on arrival for Iranian passport holders and direct flights between the two countries.
Iraq’s Transport Ministry said in a statement that flights by national carrier Iraqi Airways to Iran were suspended. The decision, the statement said, was based on a Health Ministry recommendation to take measures to prevent the virus from reaching Iraq.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry reversed a decision to allow Iranian nationals to obtain visas on arrival in Iraq, according to a statement.
Omar al-Waeli, the head of Iraq’s Border Ports Authority, said medical personnel had been dispatched to conduct checks on Iraqi nationals returning from Iran.