Iran’s Deputy Health Minister and an MP have both tested positive for the new coronavirus, as it struggles to contain an outbreak that has killed 15.
The country is one of three hot-spots outside China causing
concern that the virus could be becoming a pandemic.
The deputy minister, Iraj Harirchi, had on Monday denied
covering up the scale of the outbreak. He appeared to be in discomfort as he
spoke to reporters.
Iran has reported 95 cases, but the actual number is thought
to be higher.
The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO)
has said the sudden increase in cases in countries outside China is
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that
Washington was concerned that Iran may have concealed “vital details”
about its outbreak and urged all nations to “tell the truth about the
More people have
died in Iran from the virus than anywhere else outside China. The two countries
have strong trading links.
other countries currently in the spotlight are South Korea and Italy, where
cases have surged in recent days.
More than 80,000
cases of the Covid-19 respiratory disease have been reported worldwide since it
emerged late last year. About 2,700 patients have died – the vast majority in
the situation in Iran – home to holy sites that attract millions every year and
in a region where several countries have weak health systems – has caused great
concern about a potential mass outbreak in the Middle East.
the current hot-spots outside China, Iran is the most concerning because of the
lack of an accurate picture of how widespread the outbreak really is, said Dr
Nathalie MacDermott, an expert in infectious diseases at King’s College London.
Most of the reported cases have been people who are elderly and dying, she said. “It seems like we’re hearing about the tip of the iceberg and missing that chunk underneath who may be younger and may not be particularly unwell.”
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Tuesday an MP from the Iranian capital Tehran, Mahmoud Sadeghi, said he had
tested positive for the virus.