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Iran orders schools closed after latest coronavirus death

Iran on Saturday ordered the closure of schools, universities and cultural centers after the novel coronavirus killed six people in the country, the most outside the Far East, AFP reports.

Since it emerged in December, the new coronavirus has killed 2,345 people in China, the epicenter of the epidemic, and 17 elsewhere in the world.

The COVID-19 outbreak in Iran first surfaced on Wednesday, when authorities said it claimed the lives of two elderly people in Qom, a Shiite holy city south of the capital.

They were the first confirmed deaths from the virus in the Middle East. Iran reported two more deaths on Friday.

“We have 10 new confirmed cases of COVID-19,” Iran’s health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told state television on Saturday, according to AFP.

“One of the new cases has unfortunately passed away,” he added, noting that eight of them had been hospitalized in Qom and two in Tehran, without specifying where the death occurred.

The latest cases take to 28 the total number of confirmed infections in Iran.

On Friday, the first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed in Lebanon, after the virus was found in a 45-year-old Lebanese woman who had travelled to Lebanon from Qom.

As a “preventive measure”, Iranian authorities on Saturday ordered the closure of schools, universities and other educational centers in 14 provinces across the country from Sunday, state television reported.

They include Qom, Markazi, Gilan, Ardabil, Kermanshah, Qazvin, Zanjan, Mazandaran, Golestan, Hamedan, Alborz, Semnan, Kurdistan and the capital, Tehran.

The government also announced that “all art and cinema events in halls across the country have been cancelled until the end of the week” in order to stop infections.

Following the outbreak of the virus in Iran, Iraq decided to suspend the entry of Iranian citizens and prevent the travel of Iraqis to Iran.

The United Arab Emirates last month became the first country in the Middle East to report cases of the coronavirus strain.

Egypt has also reported cases, the first of which was recorded last week.