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Coronavirus in the Middle East: First case in Lebanon as Iran reports two new deaths

Meanwhile, the UAE reported its two new cases of patients contaminated with the virus
Iranian women wear protective masks to prevent contracting a coronavirus, as they walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran on 20 February 2020 (WANA via Reuters)

Iran confirmed two more deaths among 13 new coronavirus cases, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on Friday, while Lebanon and confirmed its first recorded case.

Four people were diagnosed in Tehran, seven in Qom and two in the northern province of Gilan, Jahanpur said in a tweet.

The new infections bring the total number of cases in the country to 18, with four people having died of the disease.

Jahanpur added that Iran has so far received four shipments of medical kits used to detect the virus from the World Health Organisation.

On Wednesday, Iran announced that two people in Qom had died from the contagious illness, which has seen countries worldwide scrambling for a response.

A government official said the two people who died had not left Iran, according to AFP.

"Unfortunately both passed away in the intensive care unit due to old age and issues with their immune system", Jahanpur was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

The deaths in Iran mark the first deaths in the Middle East from the virus, also known as COVID-19.

Lebanon records first case, UAE announces two more

Meanwhile, Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced on Friday that one woman arriving from the Iranian city of Qom has been identified as the first case in the country. Two other suspected cases are under quarantine, the minister said.

The United Arab Emirates on Friday recorded two new cases, bringing the total number of those who tested positive in the Gulf country to 11, three of whom have recovered, according to the ministry of health. 

Following the announcement of the first two deaths in Iran, Iraq’s health ministry announced on Thursday that people from neighbouring Iran would be denied entry to the country “until further notice”.

Meanwhile, Kuwait's national carrier Kuwait Airways also announced it would suspend all of its flights to Iran.

Eight people have now died from the infection outside China, where the outbreak originated and where it has reportedly killed more than 2,000 people.

The World Health Organisation has reported that 80 percent of COVID-19 cases report only mild, flu-like symptoms, and just 2 percent of cases have resulted in death - a far smaller death rate than previous epidemics like SARS or MERS.