Twelve people have died and up to 61 have been infected with the new coronavirus in Iran, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said on Monday.
Most of the coronavirus cases have been in Qom, a Shi’ite Muslim holy city 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran.
A parliamentarian representing Qom, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, said on Monday 50 people had died in the city in the past two weeks from coronavirus, noting the government was late in announcing the outbreak and that the city does not have adequate equipment to deal with the health crisis, according to the ILNA news agency.
Harirchi disputed the figure and said in a news conference on state television that if the number of dead in Qom were even one quarter of 50 he would resign.
The dispute over figures between the officials highlighted the criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran by both officials and Iranian citizens online.
Kuwait and Bahrain on Monday recorded their first cases of the coronavirus, all involving people who had visited Iran, state media said.