Iranian state media reported that two Iranians have died in Qom after testing positive for the new Coronavirus. Three more patients have been announced suspected of the virus in Babol, northern Iran, and Arak, central Iran. Local reports however indicate that the number of deaths is higher.
Experts say the sudden announcement indicates that the virus had spread among the populace. The number of deaths is a small percentage of those infected.
Two Iranians died in a hospital in the city of Qom. The announcement was made by the head of the University of Medical Sciences in Qom on Wednesday, February 18.
According to the official news agency, IRNA, the two patients came from different districts of Qom Province and had not traveled to or from China.
Located 150 kilometers south of Tehran, Qom is the primary religious center of the clergy-dominated country.
There have been reports of coronavirus in various parts of Iran but the government had not confirmed them, yet. An unspecified number of suspected cases are currently under quarantine.
“In the past two days, some suspect cases of the new coronavirus were detected in the holy city of Qom,” Kianoush Jahanpour, the spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Health, told the official news agency, IRNA.
The Ministry of Health and other regime officials had earlier dismissed reports on the emergence of coronavirus in Iran.
Social media reports indicate that the Interior Minister had advised the Health Minister not to publish any report on coronavirus in Iran until the parliamentary elections on Friday.
The new coronavirus has been detected in at least two dozen countries. The epidemic has taken the lives of more than 2,400 people so far and infected more than 74,000.