Iran's coronavirus death toll jumps to 54, with 978 infected

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Iran's coronavirus death toll jumps to 54, with 978 infected

Members of the medical team spray disinfectant to sanitize indoor place of Imam Reza's holy shrine, following the coronavirus outbreak, in Mashhad

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 54, Health Ministry spokesman told state TV, adding that the number of people infected had reached 978.

Iran has had the highest number of deaths from the coronavirus outside of China, where the outbreak originated, and several countries in the region have reported infections among people who travelled to the Islamic Republic.

"There were 385 new cases of infected people in the last 24 hours, increasing the total number to 978. The death toll is 54," spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said, calling on Iranians to avoid any unnecessary trips and stay at home.

Some neighbouring countries have closed their borders with several countries stopping flights.

Iran will put together approximately 300,000 teams, starting on Tuesday, to perform door-to-door coronavirus screening, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on state TV on Sunday.

Dependants and some staff are being evacuated from the British embassy in Tehran as of March 1 due to coronavirus but essential staff will remain, Britain's Foreign Office said on Sunday as part of a travel advisory for Iran posted online.

"As of 1 March, dependants and some staff from the British Embassy are being withdrawn from Iran due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Essential staff needed to continue critical work will remain," the advisory said.

"In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy to provide assistance to British nationals from within Iran may be limited."

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have allocated facilities across the country to help to eradicate the virus, a Guards commander told a televised news conference on Sunday.

"We have set up centres across the country to help people to tackle the virus ... we need national cooperation to tackle this crisis. People should follow our health officials' advice," said the commander, who was not named by Iran's Press TV.

The spread of the virus in Iran, the epicentre of the outbreak in the Middle East, has prompted growing anxiety among Iranians and concern in some quarters over the clerical establishment's response.



(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; additional reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by David Goodman and Ros Russell)