Iran news agency: Death toll from new virus in Qom is at 50

Iran news agency: Death toll from new virus in Qom is at 50
Pedestrians wear masks to help guard against the Coronavirus, in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. On Sunday Iran's health ministry raised the death toll from the new virus to 8 people in the country, amid concerns that clusters there, as well as in Italy and South Korea, could signal a serious new stage in its global spread. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency is reporting that the death toll from the new coronavirus in the city of Qom is 50.

The report on Monday says the 50 deaths took place since Feb 13.

An official from Qom, Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani, said more than 250 are in quarantine in the city, which is a popular place of religious study for Shiites from across Iran and other countries.

The death toll in Iran from the new coronavirus that originated in China was previously in the day reported at 12. Authorities closed schools across much of the country for a second day and as neighboring countries reported infections from travelers from Iran, prompting several to shut their borders to Iranian citizens.

THIS IS A MAJOR NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story is below:

Iranian officials on Monday reported four more deaths from the new coronavirus, bringing the death toll so far in Iran to 12, the country’s state TV reported.

The state media broadcaster quoted lawmaker Asadollah Abbasi as saying that the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 47, including those who have died of the virus. Abbasi said the latest figures came from Health Minister Saeed Namaki at a closed session of the parliament.

The report comes after the health ministry on Sunday raised the death toll from the new virus that first emerged in China in December to eight, amid concerns that clusters there as well as in Italy and South Korea could signal a serious new stage in its global spread.

The outbreak in Iran has centered mostly on the city of Qom, but spread rapidly over the past few days to people in at least four other cities, including the capital, Tehran. Iranians also went to the polls on Friday for nationwide parliamentary elections, with many voters wearing masks and stocking up on hand sanitizer.

Abbasi said people who illegally travelled to Iran from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China were the “source” of the infection.

Travellers infected with the virus from Iran were confirmed in Canada and Lebanon last week. In more recent days, the United Arab Emirates reported a married Iranian couple had been found to be infected.

Kuwait said on Monday that three people returning from the Iran were infected with the virus, among them a Saudi national, while Bahrain reported a citizen returning from Iran had also been found to have the virus.

Countries bordering Iran have taken preventive measures to limit the spread of the virus from Iranian travellers, with some barring Iranians from entry altogether.

Iran is already facing diplomatic and economic isolation under U.S. pressure. The virus threatens to isolate Iran even further as countries shut their borders to Iranians.

Authorities in Iran shuttered schools in at least 10 provinces across the country. Tehran University also suspended classes and shuttered its dormitories for several days. Those who live in student dorms were asked to return to their home towns and continue classes through the internet where possible.

Soccer fans across the country will not be allowed to attend matches, and shows in movie theaters and other venues were suspended until Friday. Authorities have begun daily sanitization of Tehran’s metro, which is used by some 3 million people, and public transportation cars in the city.