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Two die of coronavirus in Iran, first fatalities in Middle East

Iran health ministry spokesperson confirms deaths on Twitter, while WHO says Egyptian has recovered from the illness
Coronavirus cases in Chinese city of Wuhan where disease was discovered have begun to decline, according to local officials (AFP)

Two elderly people died at an Iranian hospital in the holy city of Qom after testing positive for the coronavirus, the semi-official Mehr News agency reported. 

The head of Qom's University of Medical Sciences told the news agency on Wednesday that the patients had "tested positive for the new coronavirus" and died of "respiratory illness". 

Iran's health ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur confirmed their deaths on Twitter and said the patients had been in isolation. 

Earlier on Wednesday, government spokesperson Ali Rabiei confirmed the two cases, but withheld their nationalities.

Meanwhile in Egypt, the World Health Organisation said that a person who was confirmed to have the illness was recovering, after recent tests showed the patient was "no longer carrying the virus".

"He will remain in quarantine until the full 14-day period is over and will be undergoing further required tests to ensure he was fully recovered," WHO spokeswoman Inas Hamam said in an email.

Egypt confirmed the case last week, the only known instance of the new coronavirus in Africa.

And in China, the death toll from the coronavirus passed 2,000 on Wednesday, although the number of new cases declined for a second straight day, with authorities tightening already severe containment measures in the worst-hit city of Wuhan.