Sweating minister infected with virus
Iran's deputy health minister has tested positive for coronavirus, just hours after he appeared pale and sweaty in a TV press conference downplaying the crisis.
Iraj Harirchi was put in quarantine as the regime was accused of hiding the true scale of infection, The Sun reported.
Iranian officials said today 95 people have the COVID-19 pneumonia and 15 have died - more than anywhere outside China.
But yesterday an MP said the real death toll was over 50 in the city of Qom alone.
Ahmad Amiriabadi Farahani, who represents the holy city, accused health bosses of "lying" about the outbreak and suggested the number of infections was many times the official figure.
Mr Harirchi hit back on state television last night, insisting only 61 cases were known and 12 people had died.
The minister, who appeared shaky and unwell, added tests were being carried out on another 900 suspected cases.
He said MPs did not have access to the figures, saying: "No one is qualified to discuss this sort of news at all."
As a government spokesman was speaking beside him, he took sips of water and repeatedly removed his glasses to mop his brow with a handkerchief.
By the morning he was in isolation himself as the country struggled to contain the outbreak.
Mr Harirchi, who was leading the taskforce to limit the virus's spread, posted a video on social media saying he had tested positive.
Today an MP from the capital Tehran, Mahmoud Sadeghi, also said he had tested positive for the virus.
"My corona test is positive...I don't have a lot of hope of continuing life in this world," he tweeted, according to Reuters.
DUBAI, Feb 25 (Reuters) - An Iranian parliamentarian representing Tehran said on Tuesday he had tested positive for the new coronavirus.— Vincent Lee (@Rover829) February 25, 2020
"My corona test is positive ... I don't have a lot of hope of continuing life in this world," Mahmoud Sadeghi wrote on Twitter.
Iranian officials urged people to stay indoors, although there is no mandatory quarantine.
A health ministry spokesman told state TV: "It will be safer for people to stay at home.
"There were 34 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, including 16 people in Qom city."
Yesterday the virus was confirmed in travellers from Iran to Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, the UAE, Kuwait and Canada.
The patients in Kuwait had come from Mashhad, the second most populous city in Iran, where no cases are officially reported.
Further cases emerged in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have borders with Iran.
Pakistan and Turkey closed their frontiers fearing the virus could spread there too, and airlines suspended flights.
Today more than 100 people were quarantined in the Turkish capital Ankara after landing on a flight from Tehran.
Today US secretary of state Mike Pompeo called on Iran and China to "tell the truth" after Beijing was also criticised for censoring doctors and the media.
Mr Pompeo said: "The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country.
"All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and co-operate with international aid organisations."
Iran's outbreak is believed to have started in Qom, which is a site of religious study for Shiites from across the Middle East.
It is thought a businessman who died after a trip to China could have brought it into the country, or else it was a Chinese worker building a solar energy plant nearby.
The virus has since spread to four other cities including Tehran.
Mr Farahani, one of the MPs for Qom, was quoted saying more than 250 patients were in quarantine.
He said conditions were bleak in the city's hospitals, with nurses poorly equipped, and said the 50 deaths date back to February 13 - six days before the first official case.
The MP's comments remained visible on the semi-official news agency ISNA despite his criticisms of the regime.
So far more than 80,000 people have caught the virus worldwide, with 2700 deaths.
There are concerns that clusters of the new coronavirus in Iran, as well as across parts of Italy and South Korea, could signal a serious new stage in its global spread.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "We are worried about the situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran and in Italy."
This story originally appeared on The Sun and has been republished here with permission