Two Iranians have died in hospital after testing positive for the new coronavirus in the holy Shi'ite city of Qom, the head of the city's University of Medical Sciences told the state-run Mehr news agency on Wednesday, February 18.
"Two Iranians, who tested positive earlier today for the new coronavirus, died of respiratory complications, senility, and faulty system of immunity in the intensive care unit where they were isolated," the spokesman of the Islamic Republic Ministry of Health, Kianoush Jahanpour, disclosed.
The two were residents of separate districts in the province of Qom, and neither traveled to China nor left the region, the Islamic Republic's official news agency, IRNA, reported.
The revelation implicitly is an admission that coronavirus might have already spread in the Qom region.
Hours before the announcement of the deaths, Jahanpour had admitted that two cases of coronavirus were detected in Qom.
The city of Qom, 150 kilometers (93 miles), south of the capital city, Tehran, is the primary religious center of the clergy-dominated country.
Earlier, on Monday, it was reported that two had died of respiratory complications in a medical center in Qom. However, the city's University of Medical Sciences insisted at the time that they had not detected any trace of coronavirus in the two cases. It is not clear if these were the same cases reported today.
Meanwhile, the state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on Wednesday that there was an unspecified number of other suspected cases currently under quarantine.
"In the past two days, some suspect cases of the new coronavirus were detected in the holy city of Qom," Jahanpour also told the official news agency, IRNA.
After receiving reports from Qom, Jahanpour said teams were dispatched to the city, and all suspect cases were isolated.
Earlier, the Islamic Republic Ministry of Health had vehemently dismissed reports on the emergence of coronavirus in Iran as "rumors."
Furthermore, a copy of a letter attributed to the Minister of Interior was circulated on social media on Tuesday, calling his counterpart in the Ministry of Health not to publish any report on coronavirus and its possible victims in Iran until this Friday’s parliamentary elections are over.
Nonetheless, the Ministry of Health dismissed the letter as "fake" and "non-existent" today.
The new coronavirus epidemic has killed more than 2,400 people so far and infected more than 74,000. It has been detected in at least two dozen countries.