KEY POINTS

  • Two Iranians have died due to the coronavirus, state-run media say
  • The cases were identified in the city of Qom, with emergency health services ready to prevent further spread of the virus in that area
  • Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have also identified cases of the coronavirus

Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported Wednesday two older Iranian citizens have died from the coronavirus.  

Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to the Iranian health minister, told the news agency the deaths occurred in Qom, 86 miles south of Tehran. Both victims were carrying the virus.

Qasem Jan-Babaei, Iran’s deputy health minister, said emergency units were being set up in Qom to prevent the spread of the virus. Schools and universities will be shut down in the city so an investigation can be conducted. 

"We urge people to avoid shaking hands and kissing, to observe personal hygiene and preferably avoid crowded places," Babaei said. "There have been no reports of coronavirus in other cities so far, but there is a possibility that cases may also arise in other cities." 

The deaths in Iran are the first in the Middle East and North Africa region. Egypt confirmed a case of the coronavirus last week, saying the affected person was a “foreigner.” There are also nine cases identified in the United Arab Emirates.

The coronavirus has so far infected more than 75,000 people worldwide, with the majority of cases in China. The death toll worldwide stands at more than 2,000.

The virus originated at an animal and seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and has put millions of Chinese citizens on lockdown.