DUBAI (Reuters) - The new coronavirus is killing one person every 10 minutes in Iran, the health ministry spokesman tweeted on Thursday, as the death toll in the Middle East's worst-affected country climbed to 1,284.
"Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran," Kianush Jahanpur tweeted.
Iran's deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said the total number of infections had reached 18,407 in the Islamic Republic.
The government has ordered the closure of schools and universities and banned sports, cultural and religious gatherings. Iran has also closed four holy Shi'ite shrines.
The virus has also dampened Iran's celebrations for the Nowruz New Year that begin on Friday. Authorities have urged people to stay home and avoid travelling during the holiday period to help contain the spread.
"With 149 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284. Unfortunately we had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday," Raisi said on state television.
Nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi told state TV on Thursday that Iran would not mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear programme next month because of the outbreak.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Frances Kerry)