Iran’s coronavirus death toll jumps to 12, the highest outside China

Pedestrians wear masks to help guard against the coronavirus, in downtown Tehran. (AP pic)

TEHRAN: Four more people have died of coronavirus in Iran, a spokesman for parliament said Monday, bringing the country’s overall death toll to 12 – by far the most outside China.

“The minister of health announced the deaths of 12 people and 47 cases of infection in the country,” Assadollah Abbassi was quoted as saying by semi-official news agency ISNA after a closed session of parliament.

Abbassi gave the same death toll in reports by Fars news agency and the Young Journalists Club, a branch of state television, but they quoted him as saying there were “around” 47 infections.

Quoting Abbassi, ISNA added that “according to the health minister… the cause of coronavirus infections in Iran are people who have entered the country illegally from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China”.

On Sunday, Health Minister Said Namaki said one person who died of coronavirus in Qom, south of Tehran, was a businessman who had made several trips to China.

Namaki had unsuccessfully pleaded in January for Iran’s government to order the suspension of all commercial flights between Iran and China.

In his remarks to state television on Sunday, the minister said direct flights between Iran and China were now suspended, but the Qom businessman had travelled there “on a connecting flight”.

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.

Authorities have since ordered the closure of schools, universities and other educational centres across the country as a “preventive measure”.

Since it emerged in December, the new coronavirus has killed more than 2,500 people in China.

Iran now accounts for nearly half of the deaths elsewhere in the world, which currently stand at 30.