Mystery Iranian with coronavirus travels across China: Reports

Passengers wearing masks are seen arrival at the Shanghai railway station in Shanghai, China, where the Iranian man passed through, February 27, 2020. (Reuters)

An unknown Iranian person with coronavirus traveled across several Chinese provinces, according to Chinese authorities cited by media reports, prompting officials to search for anyone who came into contact with the person to stop further spread of the deadly virus.

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan but has since spread globally and killed at least 2,800 people. This week Iran emerged as the second center of the virus, with one MP claiming that 50 people have died in the city of Qom alone, and Iranian passengers spreading the virus to nearby countries including Bahrain and Kuwait.

The Iranian could be the first known case of a non-Chinese person potentially bringing the coronavirus back to China.

Chinese media and CNN’s China Bureau Chief Eunice Yoon described the case as “imported,” suggesting that the Iranian had brought the virus back to China from Iran.

According to Reuters, the patient was diagnosed in Zhongwei, a city in the northwestern region of Ningxia. However, local authorities said that they first arrived by flight to Shanghai, before traveling the around 2,000-kilometer journey by train via the city of Lanzhou.

Authorities in Shanghai were seeking anyone who the person had come into contact with on Thursday. The local government announced it was still investigating the case and would ensure that all the places the patient visited were disinfected, reported Reuters.

None of the provinces the man traveled to have numbers of cases anywhere near as high as Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Niangxia province, where the person was diagnosed, had only reported 72 cases of coronavirus as of Thursday morning, according to data from Hong Kong's Department of Health, Centre for Health Protection.

Shanghai, where the person arrived and boarded the train, has had 337 cases, with three dead, while Gansu, where the person changed train, had 91 cases with two dead.

Coronavirus spreading from Iran, South Korea, Italy

The report adds to the concern that while the World Health Organization has said the epidemic in China has already peaked, it is continuing to spread via countries with significant cases including Iran, South Korea, Italy, and Japan.

Iran had reported 22 deaths and 141 confirmed cases of infection as of Wednesday, with travel from Iran spreading the virus to nearby Bahrain and Kuwait.

Iran's official death toll is already the second highest outside of China, but has been disputed after an Iranian MP alleged that 50 people had died of the virus in the city of Qom, prompting concern over the accuracy of the official numbers.

“The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Tuesday.

There have also been clusters of cases in northern Italy, where 12 people have died, South Korea, where infections in a cult church prompted authorities in the city if Daegu to urge 2.5 million to stay indoors, and a range of other countries across the world.

- With Reuters.

Check out the dedicated coronavirus website here for all the latest updates

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Last Update: 09:20 KSA 12:20 - GMT 09:20
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