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Authorities in Iran said on Saturday that they had detected 10 new cases of coronavirus, one of whom has died, deepening a sense of public unease over the handling of the spread of the disease.

Speaking on state TV on Saturday, health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur did not say where the latest death had occurred but the new numbers bring the total number of cases of the new coronavirus in the country to 28, with five of the total having died.

The disease has spread to several Iranian cities, a health ministry official said on Friday.

Most of the cases, including eight of the new infections, have been in Qom, a Shi'ite Muslim holy city 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.

Health officials called on Thursday for the suspension of all religious gatherings in Qom.

The United Arab Emirates announced two new coronavirus cases on Saturday, an Iranian tourist and his wife, the state news agency WAM reported, raising the total number of coronavirus cases in that country to 13. The condition of the 70-year-old Iranian national was unstable, WAM added.

Lebanon confirmed its first coronavirus case on Friday, a 45-year-old woman returning from Qom.

Iran has suspended religious pilgrimage trips to Iraq over coronavirus fears, an official who oversees pilgrimage trips said on Saturday, according to the Fars news agency.

Iraq announced on Thursday that it had banned border crossings by Iranian nationals for three days because of worries about the spread of the disease, Iraq's state news agency said.

The decision came after Iraqi Airways suspended flights to Iran. Kuwait Airways also suspended all flights to Iran starting on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia said on Friday it had suspended the travel of citizens and expatriates to Iran.

Iranian state TV reported on Saturday that a mayor of a district in Tehran had been diagnosed with coronavirus but the Fars news agency later tweeted a denial from the director of public relations for the district.

The revelation by authorities of multiple coronavirus cases and deaths over a short period of time has led to criticism and accusations from Iranians online of a cover-up by officials.

Some online posts have drawn comparisons between the handling of the recent coronavirus announcements and the way Iranian authorities revealed information about the crash of a passenger plane last month.

In early January, Iran's Revolutionary Guards accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 aboard. Iranian authorities initially denied blame before later admitting the plane had been shot down in error, infuriating Iranians who took to the streets in protest.

Iran's health minister, Saeed Namaki, made a reference to online rumours about a cover-up by the health ministry on Saturday, saying any cases of coronavirus would be revealed to the public as soon as possible, according to the IRIB news agency.

The coronavirus began in China and has largely been focused there, but it has spread to a growing number of other countries.

Source: National News Agency

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