Iran reports 12 dead, 61 infected with COVID-19; government pledges transparency

Iran reports 12 dead, 61 infected with COVID-19; government pledges transparency

An Iranian woman wears protective mask to prevent contracting a coronavirus, as she walks at Grand
An Iranian woman wears protective as she walks at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran, Feb 20, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/West Asia News Agency/Nazanin Tabatabaee)

DUBAI: Twelve people have died and 61 people have been infected with COVID-19, Iran's Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said during a news conference on state TV on Monday (Feb 24).

The government on Monday also pledged to be transparent with its figures on a deadly outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, amid allegations of a cover-up.

"We will announce any figures (we have) on the number of deaths throughout the country. We pledge to be transparent about the reporting of figures," government spokesman Ali Rabiei said in a news conference aired live on state TV.

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Most of the cases in Iran have been in Qom, a city 120km south of the capital Tehran.

A lawmaker from Qom on Monday accused the government of covering up the full extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the city, according to semi-official news agency ISNA.

In the report, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani accused Iran's health minister of "lying" about the outbreak, which authorities say has killed 12 people in Iran.

The ILNA news agency, which is close to reformists, said the lawmaker spoke of "50 deaths" in Qom alone.

OUTBREAK CAUSED BY ILLEGAL TRAVELLERS?

Parliament spokesman Assadollah Abbassi, quoted by ISNA, said 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".

Health Minister Said Namaki on Sunday said one person who died of coronavirus in Qom was a businessman who had made several trips to 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".

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

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Iran has been trying to contain the COVID-19 outbreak since it announced the first two deaths in Qom last Wednesday.

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 novel coronavirus has killed more than 2,500 people in China.

Iran now accounts for nearly half of the deaths elsewhere in the world.

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Source: Agencies/jt(mi)

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