Iran sees major coronavirus outbreak, observers say situation even worse than reported

A staggering 50 people have died in the Iranian city of Qom from the new coronavirus this month, Iran’s ILNA news agency reported.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

Three countries – Turkey, Pakistan and Armenia – have shut their borders to Iranian citizens as the coronavirus has hit the Islamic Republic particularly hard.

A staggering 50 people have died in the Iranian city of Qom from the new coronavirus this month, Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency reported on Monday.

However, observers estimate that the number might be much higher than has been reported. They say that the contagion has already reached every city in Iran, where there isn’t much awareness of the importance of isolation and medical treatment is poor, Yediot Ahronot reported on Monday.

The new death toll of 50 is already much higher than the latest number of confirmed cases of infections that Iranian officials had reported just a few hours earlier ( 12 deaths out of 47 cases), according to state TV.

An official from Qom, Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani, was quoted in ILNA saying that more than 250 people are in quarantine in the city, which is a popular place of religious study for Shiites from across Iran and other countries.

He said the 50 deaths date as far back as Feb. 13. Iran, however, first officially reported cases of the virus and its first deaths on Feb. 19.

The new coronavirus originated in China sometime around December. There are concerns that clusters in Iran, as well as in Italy and South Korea, could signal a serious new stage in its global spread.

A top World Health Official expressed concerns Monday over the virus’ spread. “We are worried about the situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran and in Italy,” WHO chied Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Stockholm via a video link.

Authorities in Iran have closed schools across much of the country for a second day and as neighboring countries reported infections from travelers from Iran.

The number of deaths compared to the number of confirmed infections from the virus is higher in Iran than in any other country, including China and South Korea, where the outbreak is far more widespread.

Iranian health officials have not said whether health workers in Qom who first came in contact with infected people had taken precautionary measures in treating those who died of the virus. Iran also has not said how many people are in quarantine across the country overall.

Kuwait announced on Monday its first cases of the virus, saying that three travelers returning from the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran were confirmed infected with the coronavirus.

Iran, however, has not yet reported any confirmed cases of the virus in Mashhad, raising questions about how the government is carrying out tests and quarantines.

Iran has confirmed cases so far in five cities, including the capital, Tehran. A local mayor in Tehran is among those infected and in quarantine.

Kuwait has been evacuating some 750 citizens from Iran and testing them as they enter the country after saying that Iran had barred its medical workers from testing travelers at an exit terminal in Iran, despite an agreement to do so.