Iran now says 6th person dead of new virus

Authorities in Iran have reported a sixth death from the new virus that emerged in China

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian officials Saturday reported a sixth death from the new virus that emerged in China.

The governor of Markazi province told the official IRNA news agency that tests of a patient who recently died in the central city of Arak were positive for the virus.

Ali Aghazadeh said the person was also suffering from a heart problem.

People are being treated for the virus in at least four different cities, including the capital, Tehran, where some pharmacies had already run out of masks and hand sanitizer. Other cities are Qom, Arak and Rasht

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who spoke earlier on state TV did not specify when the fifth death occurred. Two people had died Friday from COVID-19, the illness caused by virus. Authorities reported two deaths previously this week.

Jahanpour said that of the 10 newly detected cases, two were in the capital of Tehran and eight were in the city of Qom. That's where the first two elderly patients died on Wednesday. He said the two patients in the capital had visited Qom or had links with the city.

World Health Organization officials have said that China’s crackdown on parts of the country bought time for the rest of the world to prepare for the new virus. But as hot spots emerge around the globe, including in South Korea and Iran, there has been trouble finding the first patient who sparked each new cluster.

Qom is a popular religious destination and a center of learning and religious studies for Shiite Muslims from inside Iran, as well as Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.

As a preventive measure, Iran has closed schools in Tehran, Qom, Arak and three other provinces. Also, the city of Tehran closed down all bistros and water fountains in the city's subway stations until further notice.

Authorities also suspended popular football matches for 10 days and additional measures include daily cleanings of metro train cars and city buses.

Elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia announced that citizens and residents of the kingdom are not permitted to travel to Iran following the spread of the virus there. Anyone previously in Iran will only be permitted entry to the country after the 14-day incubation period of the virus has passed.

The decision, while not specifically mentioning Iranian nationals, directly impacts thousands of Iranians who travel to Mecca and Medina for Islamic pilgrimages, effectively barring them from entry to Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has already barred its citizens and residents from travel to China.