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Coronavirus spreads to most Iran provinces as death toll rises

Fifteen more people have died and 586 new cases recorded in the Islamic Republic over the past 24 hours
A member of a medical team sprays disinfectant to sanitise indoor area of Imam Reza's holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad (Reuters)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that coronavirus had reached "almost" all of his country's provinces, as the illness claimed yet more victims.

His statement came moments after Iran's health ministry announced that 15 people had died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, raising the overall death toll in Iran to 92 people, with 2,922 infected by the virus. 

"The number of confirmed new cases in the past 24 hours is 586," health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference. 

"Fifteen have unfortunately lost their lives."

Iran has a higher ratio of deaths to infections when compared to other countries, sparking fears that the number of people infected may be higher than current figures show.

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The Iranian healthcare sector was already drastically weakened by US sanctions before the virus' outbreak, and the government has been left scrambling to respond to the fast pace of infections.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Washington is ready to assist, a sentiment derided by Rouhani on Wednesday.

"They've appeared with a mask of sympathy that 'we also want to help the people of Iran'," Rouhani told journalists in Tehran. "If you are really telling the truth, then lift sanctions from medicine."

Foreign ministry spokesperson Seyed Abbas Mousavi said on Friday that Iran would receive 20,000 coronavirus test kits from China.

Several MPs and top officialss have been infected by the virus, with a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei dying from the illness. 

Footage from a cabinet meeting showed Rouhani and his ministers sitting in a larger room than the usual venue for the weekly meeting, with each official further apart. 

Qom has been the worst hit place in the country and the wider region, with many cases in other countries arising from people travelling from the holy city.

Iranian officials, however, have ruled out following measures taken by other affected countries and quarantining the city.

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