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Iran’s deputy health minister has denied a claim of a cover-up over the new coronavirus disease, as the number of confirmed deaths there rose to 12.
A parliamentarian for Qom, the city at the centre of Iran’s Covid-19 outbreak, accused the authorities of lying about the full extent of the problem.
Ahmad Amirabadi-Farahani said there had been 50 deaths in Qom alone.
That was rejected by the minister, who vowed to resign if it could be proven that even half that number had died.
“I categorically deny this information,” Iraj Harirchi told a news conference.
“This is not the time for political confrontations. The coronavirus is a national problem,” he added.
More on the coronavirus outbreak
Government spokesman Ali Rabiei also insisted that officials would be transparent about reporting deaths associated with Covid-19, the infectious respiratory disease caused by the virus.
However, Mr Amirabadi-Farahani refused to retract his claim.
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Media captionThe BBC’s online health editor talks us through what we know about the virus
“I have given the names of 40 dead people to the deputy minister. Now, we await his resignation,” he was quoted as saying by the Ilna news agency.
At least 61 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Iran since last week. Qom province is the worst hit, with 34 cases, according to the health ministry.
Also on Monday, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iraq became the latest Middle Eastern countries to report their first cases. They are being linked by local officials to Iran.