Coronavirus death toll climbs to 66 in Iran

Iran says there are 66 dead amid 1,501 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the Islamic Republic.

That’s according to Iran Health Ministry spokesman Ali Reza Azizi, who gave the figure at a news conference Monday in Tehran.

Iran has the highest death toll from the virus outside of China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Iranian officials are among those affected, with a member of Iran’s Expediency Council dying Monday.

The first cases were not reported in Iran until February 19, the same day that the two elderly infected people died. Since then, of the more than 1,100 cases in the Middle East, the majority trace back to Iran. Cases from Iran have been reported in Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

There is currently no vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Researchers around the world are working to find one, but anything widely usable is likely more than a year away.

The illness, known as COVID-19 and which originated in central China, has infected at least seven government officials in Iran, including one of its vice presidents and a senior health ministry official.