Iran says 43 infected with coronavirus, eight dead: official

Iranian couple wearing protective masks to prevent contracting a coronavirus walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran February 20, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Nazanin Tabatabaee via REUTERS

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SULAIMANI — Iran confirmed 15 new cases of the new coronavirus on Sunday (February 23), taking the total to 43 with a death toll of eight. Most of the infections have been in the Shia Muslim holy city of Qom.

“The virus came from China to Qom city. A Merchant from Qom who died of the virus used to regularly travel to China ... Flights were suspended between the two countries but he used indirect flights,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said according to Reuters.

He urged people to avoid traveling to Qom, a major destination for Shia pilgrims 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.

“Obviously we do not recommend trips to Qom or any other holy Shia cities in Iran,” Namaki said on state television.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur announced the 15 new cases earlier on Sunday.

“So far, we have 43 infected cases and the death toll is eight,” he told the television.

Eight of the new infections were in Qom, where authorities have shut down schools and religious seminaries. In Tehran and some other cities, schools have been closed until Tuesday.

(NRT Digital Media/Reuters)