Iran reports 12 dead, 61 infected with coronavirus within Islamic Republic

Iran has suspended religious pilgrimage trips to Iraq over coronavirus fears, an official who oversees pilgrimage trips said on Saturday, according to the Fars news agency.

Iranian women wear protective masks to prevent contracting a coronavirus, as they walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran February 20, 2020 (photo credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/NAZANIN TABATABAEE VIA REUTERS)
Iranian women wear protective masks to prevent contracting a coronavirus, as they walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran February 20, 2020
(photo credit: WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/NAZANIN TABATABAEE VIA REUTERS)
Twelve people have died and up to 61 have been infected with the new coronavirus in Iran, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said on Monday.
Most of the coronavirus cases have been in Qom, a Shi’ite Muslim holy city 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
A parliamentarian representing Qom, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, said on Monday 50 people had died in the city in the past two weeks from coronavirus, noting the government was late in announcing the outbreak and that the city does not have adequate equipment to deal with the health crisis, according to the ILNA news agency.
Harirchi disputed the figure and said in a news conference on state television that if the number of dead in Qom were even one quarter of 50 he would resign.
The dispute over figures between the officials highlighted the criticism of the government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran by both officials and Iranian citizens online.
Kuwait and Bahrain on Monday recorded their first cases of the coronavirus, all involving people who had visited Iran, state media said.
The United Arab Emirates announced two new coronavirus cases on Saturday, an Iranian tourist and his wife, state news agency WAM reported. Lebanon recorded its first coronavirus case on Friday, a 45-year-old woman returning from Qom.
Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew on Monday after sharp rises in new cases reported in Iran, Italy and South Korea. The virus has infected nearly 77,000 people and killed more than 2,500 in China, where it originated late last year.