Two people died in Iran after testing positive for the new corona virus on Wednesday in the Islamic Republic's first illnesses.
They are also the first deaths from the COVID-19 virus in the Middle East, and only the seventh and eighth outside of China, which killed more than 2,000 people in the outbreak.
State news agency IRNA quoted Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesman for the ministry, as saying that the virus was found in two elderly people with immunity problems in the holy city of Qom, south of the Iranian capital.
"After the recent cases of chronic respiratory diseases in Qom, two of the patients had positive tests in preliminary trials," he quoted him.
"Unfortunately, both have died in the intensive care unit due to age and problems with their immune systems."
The state news agency had previously quoted Jahanpour as saying that the "new corona virus" had been confirmed in two people and that other suspected cases had been isolated.
IRNA also quoted a media advisor from the Iranian Minister of Health as saying that two people had died after being tested positive for the corona virus.
"Both people who tested positive for coronavirus were in Qom and old. Both died," said Alireza Vahabzadeh.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)