Coronavirus death toll rises to 8 in Iran: State media

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Eight people in Iran have died from coronavirus, according to Iran’s health ministry, marking the first coronavirus deaths in the Middle East and highest death toll outside of China, the disease’s inception point.

There are now 43 confirmed cases of the illness in Iran, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told state TV. That’s a jump from a Saturday’s total of 28 confirmed cases and six fatalities.

Earlier in the day, Iran International media had put the death toll at 18, citing unnamed sources.

The deadly coronavirus, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, continues to spread across the world.

Watch: Iranians greet each other with feet to avoid spreading coronavirus.

On Saturday, Tehran had reported six deaths, with 28 infected.

The outbreak reportedly began in the Shia holy city of Qom, central Iran, with two elderly people dying from the virus on Wednesday.

The government has responded by shutting schools in Qom and putting travel restrictions on citizens, but many Iranians have protested against what they see as an incompetent response amid parliamentary elections marred by low turnout.

Protests against the Iranian government’s handling of the outbreak broke out in the northern city of Talash, according to video footage on Sunday morning.

Protesters gathered in front of the Noorani Hospital of Talesh country in Gilan Province, northern Iran, on Saturday night.

Videos being shared online also showed Iranian security forces firing tear gas at the protesters.

Sources confirmed to Al Arabiya that Iranian authorities will be suspending all football matches across the country starting on Sunday for 10 days due to the outbreak.

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- With Reuters.

Note: In an earlier version of this story, Al Arabiya English reported the death toll had risen to 18. This version of the story attributes the number to Iran International.

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