Iran Says 43 Infected With Coronavirus, Eight Dead – Official

DUBAI, Feb 23 (Reuters) Iran has confirmed 15 new cases of the new coronavirus, taking the total to 43 with a death toll of eight. Most of the infections have been in the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom.

“The virus came from China to Qom city. A merchant from Qom, who died of the virus, used to travel regularly to China … Flights were suspended between the two countries but he used indirect flights,” Health Minister Saeed Namaki said.

He urged people to avoid travelling to Qom, a major destination for Shi’ite pilgrims 120 km (75 miles) south of Tehran.

“Obviously we do not recommend trips to Qom or any other holy Shi’ite cities in Iran,” Namaki said on state television.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur announced the 15 new cases earlier on Sunday: “So far, we have 43 infected cases and the death toll is eight.”

Eight of the new infections were in Qom, where authorities have closed schools and religious seminaries. In Tehran and some other cities, schools have been shut until Tuesday.

In other moves against the virus, Turkey closed its border with Iran and Afghanistan suspended air and road travel to and from the country.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Giles Elgood)