DUBAI: Iran’s deputy health minister and a member of parliament have tested positive for the coronavirus amid growing regional fears that the country cannot cope with the spread of the infection.
The minister, Iraj Harirchi, had coughed and sweated through a news conference on Monday, held to deny claims that the virus death toll in the city of Qom had reached 50.
On Tuesday he admitted: “I too have been infected with coronavirus. I wanted to tell you that ... we will definitely be victorious against this virus in the next few weeks.”
MP Mahmoud Sadeghi said he had also tested positive for the virus. “I do not have much hope of staying alive,” he said, apparently unaware that the fatality rate among those infected is about 2 percent.
The US is concerned that Iran may have “suppressed vital details” about the outbreak.
“All nations including Iran should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The unease is shared by Iran’s Gulf neighbors, who announced new measures on Tuesday to cut links with Iran to prevent the virus from spreading.
The UAE suspended passenger and cargo flights to Iran, and Bahrain closed schools and nurseries for two weeks and banned its citizens from traveling to Iran “until further notice.”
Over the past two days, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman have reported 29 cases of the coronavirus among people returning from pilgrimages to Iran.
Bahrain’s Health Ministry said 15 more people, including six Saudi women, had tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah.
Oman has also suspended Iranian flights after identifying two more virus cases.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 80,000 people and killed 2,711, mostly in China, since it was identified in Hubei province in December.