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Monday Feb 24 2020
Web Desk

Iran health minister rejects reports of ‘50 deaths’ due to coronavirus

Web Desk
Iranians, some wearing protective masks, wait to cross a street in the capital Tehran on February 22, 2020. Photo: AFP

TEHRAN: The Iranian government has strongly rejected local media reports claiming "50 deaths" in the city of Qom due to coronavirus. 

A lawmaker from Iran’s Qom on Monday accused the government of covering up the full extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the holy city, according to semi-official news agency ILNA.

In the report, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani accused Iran’s health minister of "lying" about the outbreak, which authorities say has killed 12 people in Iran.

The ILNA news agency, which is close to reformists, said the lawmaker spoke of "50 deaths" in Qom alone.

"The rest of the media have not published this figure, but we prefer not to censor what concerns the coronavirus because people’s lives are in danger," ILNA editor Fatemeh Madiani told AFP.

Read also: Coronavirus outbreak: China mulls 'complete ban' on wildlife trade

But the country’s deputy health minister rejected the report.

"I categorically deny this information," Iraj Harirchi said in a news conference aired live on state television.

"This is not the time for political confrontations. The coronavirus is a national problem," he added.

Iran’s government pledged to be transparent about the outbreak.

"We will announce any figures (we have) on the number of deaths throughout the country. We pledge to be transparent about the reporting of figures," its spokesman Ali Rabiei said.

Iran has been scrambling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak since it announced the first two deaths in the holy city of Qom on Wednesday last week.

Since then, it has said a total of 12 people have died from the virus among 64 infections.

Read also: Spike in spread of coronavirus in China and abroad rekindle concerns

Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain report first coronavirus cases

Afghanistan has detected its first novel coronavirus case, the country´s health minister said Monday, involving a patient who had recently travelled to Iran, where 12 people have died from the outbreak.

"I announce the first positive coronavirus (case) in Herat," health minister Firozuddin Feroz told a press conference, calling on citizens to avoid travel to the western province which borders Iran.

Afghan authorities had earlier announced a suspension of suspend air and ground travel to Iran, as fears mount across the region over a jump in new coronavirus infections.

Iran has registered the highest number of fatalities outside China, the epicentre of the epidemic.

Feroz said the patient had travelled to the Iranian holy city of Qom.

Separately Kuwait and Bahrain confirmed their first novel coronavirus cases on Monday, health ministries in the two Gulf states announced, adding all had come from Iran.

Read also: Afghanistan confirms first coronavirus patient

Kuwait reported three infections and Bahrain one.

"Tests conducted on those coming from the Iranian holy city of Mashhad showed there were three confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19)," the Kuwaiti health ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter.

It said the cases were of a 53-year-old Kuwaiti man, a 61-year-old Saudi citizen and a 21-year-old stateless Arab.

"All three cases are under constant observation by the health authority," the ministry added.

Bahrain's health ministry also reported the country's first COVID-19 case on Monday after a "citizen arriving from Iran was suspected of having contracted the virus based on emerging symptoms".

The patient was transferred to a medical centre for "immediate testing", which proved positive for the infection, the ministry added.