DUBAI: Four more people in Iran have died due to COVID-19, state media reported on Tuesday (Feb 25), taking the death toll to 16 in the Islamic Republic - the highest death toll outside China.
Two of the dead were elderly women in the central province of Markazi and another was a patient in the northern province of Alborz, state news agency IRNA said.
"One was an 87-year-old woman with a history of cardiovascular, pulmonary, liver and kidney diseases who passed away after being hospitalised for two days," Abbas Nikravesh, head of Saveh city's medical university in Markazi, told IRNA.
The other was an 82-year-old with "serious blood and cardiovascular diseases" and died after being hospitalised for a day, he added, noting that she had a history of visiting Qom as her children live there.
IRNA did not name the patient in Alborz or detail any underlying health conditions.
"This patient was under special care in recent days when he passed away," Hassan Inanlou, deputy head of Alborz's medical university, was quoted as saying by IRNA.
As the death toll of those infected by the new coronavirus increased, Iran's health ministry urged Iranians to stay at home, a ministry spokesman told state TV.
"It will be safer for people to stay at home. There were 34 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, including 16 people in Qom city," Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told state TV.
The health ministry said on Tuesday that 95 people had been infected across Iran.
Iran said on Monday 900 cases were suspected, dismissing claims by a lawmaker from the holy Shi'ite city of Qom who said 50 people had died in the city.
"It is an uninvited and inauspicious visitor. God willing we will get through ... this virus," said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a televised speech.
Iran, which confirmed its first two deaths last week in Qom, has yet to say how many people it has quarantined, but the semi-official Mehr news agency said 320 people had been hospitalised.
The outbreak threatens to isolate Iran even further, with several countries suspending flights after coronavirus cases in travellers from Iran were confirmed in Canada, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Some neighbouring countries have closed their borders. An airport representative said on Tuesday that Dubai International Airport has suspended all flights to and from the Islamic Republic, with the exception of Tehran.
Oman's Khasab port is suspending the import and export of goods to and from Iran from Feb 26 because of the coronavirus outbreak, operator Marafi said on Twitter.
Six Arab countries have reported their first cases of coronavirus, with those infected all having links to Iran. Kuwait said on Tuesday the number of infected people there had risen to eight. Bahrain said it had eight cases, four were Saudi nationals and two Bahrainis.
Iranian authorities have ordered the nationwide cancellation of concerts and soccer matches and the closure of schools and universities in many provinces.
The head of Qom's Medical Science University, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, expressed concern over "the spread of those people infected by the virus across the city", adding the Health Ministry had banned releasing figures linked to the coronavirus.
Many Iranians took to social media to accuse authorities of concealing the facts.
Popular anger has been high for months over the handling of a Ukrainian passenger plane crash in January, which the military took three days to admit was caused by an Iranian missile fired in error.
It revived anti-government protests that rocked the country in November against a hike in fuel prices, which swiftly turned political with calls for Iran's rulers to step down, before authorities cracked down.