Iran confirms 13 more coronavirus cases, two new deaths, mostly in Qom holy city

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran confirmed 13 new coronavirus cases on Friday, two of whom have died, with the outbreak there coming just as the country votes in a parliamentary election.

The majority of coronavirus cases in Iran have been in Qom, a Shi’ite Muslim holy city 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.

The new cases comprised seven people diagnosed in Qom, four in Tehran and two in Gilan, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a tweet.

“Most of the cases were residents of Qom or had a history of returning from Qom in recent days and weeks,” Jahanpur said in the tweet, referring to the new cases.

The total number of cases in Iran now stands at 18, with four of those people having died.

Health officials had called on Thursday for the suspension of all religious gatherings in Qom.

Iranians were voting in a parliamentary election on Friday which is widely seen as a referendum on authorities after a series of crises, including a near full-blown conflict with the United States last month.

An Iraqi medical staff member checks a passenger’s temperature, amid the new coronavirus outbreak, upon her arrival to Shalamcha Border Crossing between Iraq and Iran, February 20, 2020. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani

State TV showed voters at polling centres in Qom wearing surgical masks on Friday.

Iraqi Airways has suspended flight service to neighbouring Iran as a protective measure against the coronavirus outbreak, the Iraqi state news agency said on Thursday.

The epidemic originated in China and has killed more than 2,100 people there. New research suggesting the virus is more contagious than previously thought has added to the international alarm over the outbreak.

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Toby Chopra

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