The spokesman for Iran’s health ministry confirmed in an interview with state television that Deputy Minister Iraj Harirchi has been infected and is now under quarantine. The Iranian official had previously appeared unwell during a press conference on Monday about coronavirus. During the press conference, he said twelve people had died and up to 61 have been infected with the new deadly virus in Iran. Most of the cases in Iran have been in Qom, a Shi’ite Muslim holy city 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
Schools were closed in Iran for a second day, and daily sanitising of public buses and the Tehran metro, which is used by some three million people a day, was started.
In several countries that reported their first cases on Monday – Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, the infected patients had links with Iran.
Iraq and Afghanistan closed their borders with Iran in an effort to stop the further spread while Bahrain announced a 48-hour suspension of flights to and from Dubai, the world’s busiest international airport.
The virus also spread via tourists travelling within Italy, as the southern island of Sicily reported a positive case from a woman vacationing from Bergamo, in northern Lombardy.
Two cases were also reported in Tuscany, well south of the epicentre.
She and her husband were put in isolation, and officials were tracing their contacts to try to contain the spread on the autonomous island, Sicily’s regional government said.
Civil protection officials on Tuesday reported a large jump of cases in Italy, from 222 to 283. Seven have died, all of them elderly people suffering from other problems.
Premier Giuseppe Conte shocked Lombardy officials by taking to task the hospital in Codogno, southeast of Milan, where Italy’s first positive patient went on February 18 with flu-like symptoms.
The man was sent home, only to return a short time later with worsening conditions, at which point he was tested for the virus.
Many of Lombardy’s positive tests have a traceable connection to the Codogno hospital, including several doctors and nurses, patients and relatives who visited them.
Mr Conte told reporters that the Lombardy cluster grew “because of the hospital management that wasn’t completely proper according to the protocols that are recommended for these cases”.
“This surely contributed to the spread,” he said.
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China reported 508 new cases and another 71 deaths on Tuesday, 68 of them in the central city of Wuhan, where the epidemic was first detected in December.
The updates bring mainland China’s totals to 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths.
South Korea now has the second-most cases in the world with 893 and has had a near 15-fold increase in reported infections in a week, with 60 new cases reported on Tuesday.
As South Korea reported its eighth fatality, health workers continued to find batches in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas, where panic has brought towns to an eerie standstill.
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