Iran’s deputy health minister has tested positive for coronavirus, according to local reports.
The spokesman for Iran’s health ministry confirmed in an interview with state television that Iraj Harirchi has been infected and is now under quarantine.
Iran has reported 16 coronavirus deaths, the most outside China, and said on Monday it had 61 confirmed cases and 900 other suspected cased.
On Monday Harirchi denied that the authorities were lying about the scale of the outbreak. According to the BBC, a member of parliament for Qom, the city at the centre of Iran’s virus outbreak, claimed there had been 50 deaths there alone.
Harirchi vowed to resign if it could be proven that even half the number had died.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani urged people not to panic as the country struggles to contain the outbreak which the World Health Organisation described as “deeply concerning”.
The rapid spread of the virus outside of China has prompted fears that it could become a pandemic.
Cases in Europe are also increasing as Italy put 11 towns under lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Austria has confirmed its first two cases of Covid-19, according to Reuters reports. Tyrol province governor Guenther Platter is quoted as saying that the patients are two Italians who live in the province and were probably infected in Italy’s Lombardy region.
Europe’s biggest outbreak is in Italy as confirmed cases jumped from three before Friday to 220, with seven dead.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenvokic confirmed the country’s first case. He said: “The patient is in the Zagreb clinic for infectious diseases. It is a younger person and has milder symptoms. He is in isolation and his condition is good at the moment.”
The patient reportedly stayed in Milan from 19 February to 21 February.
The number of reported cases globally has passed 80,000 and the death toll is now above 2,700.