DUBAI, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Iranian health officials urged all religious gatherings to be suspended in Qom, news agency ISNA said on Thursday, after two more people tested positive for the coronavirus in the holy city, where two died of it this week.
In all, three more people had tested positive for the virus, an Iranian health ministry spokesman said.
“Two people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Qom and one person in Arak, bringing the total of confirmed cases to five in Iran,” spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said in a tweet.
Jahanpur said all patients were Iranian and the person in the central city of Arak was a doctor from Qom, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.
None of the people who were diagnosed with coronavirus were known to have travelled to China or were in contact with anyone who had gone there, Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, the head of the center for the management of communicable diseases at Iran‘s ministry of health, said on Thursday, according to the IRIB news agency.
But the health ministry is investigating the matter, he said.
Iran holds parliamentary elections on Friday.
Jahanpur said health officials had called for the suspension of all religious gatherings in Qom, a Shi’ite Muslim holy city 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
Two Iranians died in hospital after testing positive in Qom, the head of the city’s University of Medical Sciences said on Wednesday.
Iraqi Airways has suspended flight service to neighbouring Iran as a protective measure against the coronavirus outbreak, the Iraqi state news agency said on Thursday.
The epidemic originated in China and has killed more than 2,100 people there. New research suggesting the virus is more contagious than previously thought has added to the internatonal alarm over the outbreak.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom with additional reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Geneva Editing by Mark Heinrich)