Iranian officials have ordered the shutdown of the holy city of Qom after the two persons previously infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) died and three others confirmed to have contracted the disease on Thursday (Feb. 20).
All schools and universities, including religious Shiite seminaries, have been ordered closed, according to the official IRNA news agency.
The Iranian Health Ministry disclosed, just a day before, that two elderly Iranian were confirmed with COVID-19. They later died due to complications.
The Islamic Republic had recently repatriated 60 Iranian students from Wuhan, the epicentre of the deadly outbreak, however, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said the students evacuated were quarantined upon their return to Iran.
Namaki further noted that the Iranians were discharged after 14 days without any health problems.
Iranian authorities are now investigating the origin of the disease, and its possible link with religious pilgrims from Pakistan or other countries.
Qom, situated south of the capital, Tehran, is a popular religious hotspot and a centre of learning, pilgrimage and religious studies for Shiite Muslims from inside Iran, as well as Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.
Including the two deaths on Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases in Iran has now risen to five.