The new coronavirus has killed an additional three people in Iran, bringing the total to 16 -- the highest death toll outside the disease's focal point in China -- as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on February 25 demanded that Tehran "tell the truth" about the outbreak, voicing alarm at allegations of a cover-up.
"The United States is deeply concerned by information indicating the Iranian regime may have suppressed vital details about the outbreak in that country," Pompeo told reporters in Washington.
"All nations including Iran should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations," he said.
Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew this week after sharp rises in new cases in Iran, Italy, and South Korea. The virus has infected more than 80,000 people globally, causing around 2,700 deaths, mainly in China.
A spokesman for Iran's Health Ministry told state television on February 25 that three more people infected with the new virus died in the country amid 95 confirmed cases.
"It will be safer for people to stay at home. There were 34 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, including 16 people in Qom city," said the spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour.
Qom is a popular place of religious study for Shi'a from across Iran and other countries that is 120 kilometers south of Tehran.
A media adviser to the health minister later announced that Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi had been infected.
"The coronavirus test for Mr. Harirchi...who was on the front lines combating the coronavirus, was positive," Alireza Vahabzadeh wrote in a tweet.
Meanwhile, the U.A.E. General Civil Aviation Authority "suspended all passenger flights and cargo to and from Iran starting today and for one week that can be renewed," a statement carried by the official WAM news agency.
The statement described the decision as a precautionary measure undertaken to ensure strict monitoring and prevention of the spread of the virus.
The U.A.E. has recorded 13 cases, with the latest two involving an Iranian tourist and his wife.
The Arab state is Iran's biggest trading partner in the Persian Gulf. Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel, is a major transit point for passengers travelling to and from Iran.
On February 25, a plane carrying more than 130 passengers and crew from Tehran to Istanbul was diverted to the Turkish capital, Ankara, amid suspicion of infections on board. Turkey's health minister said all would be quarantined for 14 days.
On February 24, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman reported their first cases of the coronavirus -- all involving people who had come from Iran.
On February 25, four Iraqis of the same family tested positive for the coronavirus in the northern city of Kirkuk, the Iraqi Health Ministry said.
They recently arrived from Iran and were put in quarantine by health authorities, the ministry added.
Meanwhile, the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research said on February 25 that the first coronavirus clinical trial testing biotechnology company Gilead's experimental antiviral drug remdesivir has started.
The first trial participant is a U.S. citizen who was repatriated after being quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and the study is being conducted at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, according to the National Institutes of Health.
In Washington, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said there will likely be more cases of coronavirus in the United States, and he asked a Senate subcommittee to approve $2.5 billion in funding to fight the outbreak.
"We are working closely with state, local, and private sector partners to prepare for mitigating the virus's potential spread in the United States, as we will likely see more cases here," Azar told a Senate appropriations subcommittee on February 25.
Azar added that recent fast-spreading outbreaks in Iran and Italy were particularly worrying.
In Tenerife, hundreds of guests at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel in Tenerife were confined to their rooms as medical tests were carried out after a visiting Italian doctor tested positive for COVID-19. The doctor is reportedly from the Lombardy region, where Italian authorities are battling an outbreak.