Thu, 09 Apr 2020

Iran said on February 20 that three more people have tested positive for a new coronavirus in the holy Shi'ite city of Qom, where two people the previous day had died of the illness caused by the virus.

The IRNA state news agency reported that all schools and universities, including religious Shi'ite seminaries, were closed in the holy Iranian city, located about 140 kilometers south of the capital, Tehran.

Amid fears of the virus spreading, neighboring Iraq banned border crossings by Iranian nationals after already suspending flights to Iran.

The country's Health Ministry said the same day that there were five confirmed cases of what the World Health Organization (WHO) has named the COVID-19 virus, which first emerged in China's central Hubei Province in December.

The two elderly Iranians who died on February 19 were included in the number.

Iranian Deputy Health Minister Mohammad Mahdi said those infected with the illness didn't appear to have had any contact with Chinese nationals.

Authorities are currently investigating how the five individuals could have contracted the virus and its possible link with religious pilgrims visiting from outside the country.

Sixty Iranian students who had recently been evacuated from China and quarantined were discharged after 14 days without any health problems.

More than 75,000 people worldwide have been infected with the virus, with over 2,000 deaths being reported. The vast majority of cases have occurred in China.

Based on reporting by IRNA and AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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