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Iran’s head of counter-coronavirus task force tests positive for deadly disease

Death toll in country rises to 16 as plane carrying 132 passengers from Tehran quarantined in Turkey

Samuel Osborne
Tuesday 25 February 2020 12:48 GMT
Iran's deputy health minister looks unwell as he mops his brow just before testing positive for Coronavirus

The head of Iran‘s counter-coronavirus taskforce has tested positive for coronavirus, a spokesperson for the country’s health ministry has said.

Iraj Harichi, the country’s deputy health minister, has been infected with the disease and placed under quarantine, the spokesperson added.

Mr Harichi appeared uncomfortable and could be seen sweating during a press conference on Monday.

After the announcement confirming Mr Harichi had the virus, the deputy health minister posted a video saying he had the disease and had quarantined himself at home.

He promised the authorities would defeat the virus, which is also known as Covid-19.

The death toll from the virus reached 17 in Iran, authorities announced on Tuesday - but a politician from the city of Qom has claimed as many as 50 people have died.

Meanwhile, all 132 passengers and crew on a Turkish Airlines plane from Tehran are to be quarantined for 14 days and tested for possible infections at a hospital in Ankara, Turkey’s health minister announced.

The flight was carrying Turkish nationals home after Ankara closed its border with Iran over the weekend after the viral outbreak there, Fahrettin Koca said in a statement.

“A special flight was set up for Turkish citizens wishing to return to our country from Iran. Turkish citizens who come to our country from Iran with this flight will be kept under a quarantine for 14 days,” Mr Koca said.

Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk said 17 passengers, including 12 from Iran’s Qom region, were suspected to have the virus.

Turkey’s Demiroren news agency broadcast footage showing ambulances lined up beside the plane after landing in Ankara, with several personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.

More than 80,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus in China since the outbreak began late last year, with the death toll reaching 2,663 on Monday.

The virus has spread to around 29 countries and territories.

There are fears Iran could act as a source for new transmissions of the disease across the Middle East, including to Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman.

Additional reporting by agencies

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