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New Deaths Confirmed As Coronavirus Continues To Spread In Iran

Iranian women wearing protective masks walk in a street in the capital Tehran on February 20,2020.
Iranian women wearing protective masks walk in a street in the capital Tehran on February 20,2020.

Iran has officially the second largest number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) death toll after China with four confirmed deaths. Earlier reports said two patients died in Qom on Thursday, but officials did not say where did the new two deaths occured.

Meanwhile, Tehran has confirmed 13 more patients including 7 in Qom, 4 in Tehran and 2 in Rasht are positively diagnosed with Coronavirus, Kianush Jahanpur, head of public relations and information center of Iran's Ministry of Health said in a tweet Friday afternoon February 21.

Most of the new cases include people living in Qom and those who have visited the religious city south of Tehran during the past week.

Jahanpur had said earlier that 735 patients with symptoms similar to flu have been hospitalized in various cities.

Individual social media users including Reza Younesi and Hossein Nouraninejad have written in detail about the death of their relatives in Qom where a holy shrine has thousands of visitors every day and officials have introduced initiatives to prevent the people from touching and kissing the walls and ornaments around the shrine.

According to conspiracy theories fueled by Iranians' distrust of the Islamic government, the number of cases of death and infliction are far more than what has been announced and the government is playing down the reports about the epidemic as a Parliamentary election takes on Friday.

Jahanpur tweeted later on Friday that the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a fourth shipment of Coronavirus diagnosis kits from Dubai to Tehran in the morning.

Meanwhile, confirming the tweets posted by Jahanpur, the Health Ministry's media adviser Alireza Vahabzadeh said that so far four of the 18 confirmed Coronavirus patients have died.

He added that two patients are being cared for at a hospital in Babaol in Mazandaran Province north of Tehran.

Officials in Tehran, including Hamid Reza Goudarzi the deputy for security affairs at the governor-general's office have said that "there is no reason for concern about Coronavirus in Tehran." However, he said that an "emergency meeting" has been held in the capital on Friday about protecting citizens against disease.

However, like Health Mkinistry Officials, Goudarzi called on Iranians not to pay attention to rumors.

In another development, Deputy Health Minister Karim Hemmati said security officials are working hard to counter fake news about Coronavirius, including "fabricated" correspondences between the Health Minister and his deputies about the spread of the virus in Iran.

In Dehloran in Ilam Province a few people have been reportedly arrested for spreading rumors about the virus, the media quoted the city's Prosecutor as saying.

The Culture Ministry has issued a statement calling on the media not to publish "hypotheses and inaccurate reports" about the disease and avoid publishing comments by non-experts.

In another development Mahan Airline, said to be partly owned by the Revolutionary Guard, which has been accused of spreading the virus by continuing its flights to and from China has announced that it flew to China at the government's order to carry humanitarian aid, adding that it suspended its passenger flights a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, there has been rising concern about the shortage of masks and hygienic gel at the pharmacies. However, officials say there is no shortage as 15 companies produce 1.5 million masks per day. Nevertheless, Vice-President Es'haq Jahangiri has called on the companies to boost their production.

In the meantime, there have been complaints about the rising price of masks. Mohammad Mosaed, a reporter in Tehran tweeted that he had to pay five times higher than usual for a mask at a Tehran pharmacy.

The prosecutor of Fardis near Tehran confirmed on his Instagram page that some outlets offer hygienic gels and masks at several times their usual price, but law enforcement officers are trying to control the market.