Medical staff prepare to check passengers arriving from Iran in the airport in Najaf Image Credit: AP

Iran's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has reached 43, a health official told state TV on Saturday, adding that the number of infected people across the country has reached 593.

"Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours. The death toll is 43 now. The new confirmed infected cases since yesterday is 205 that makes the total number of confirmed infected people 593," Kianush Jahanpur told state TV.

Earlier report:

Iran's health ministry spokesman in a tweet on Friday rejected a report by BBC Persian that at least 210 people have died from coronavirus in the country.

At least 210 people have died from coronavirus in Iran, in various cities, as of Thursday night, BBC Persian had reported on Friday, citing hospital sources.

The spokesman, Kianush Jahanpur, announced earlier in the day that 34 people have died from coronavirus in Iran so far.

34 people killed in Iran and 388 confirmed cases

Tehran: Iran's Health Ministry spokesman says the new coronavirus has killed 34 people amid 388 confirmed cases in Iran.

The hardest-hit among the provinces remained the one home to the holy Shiite city of Qom.

Experts fear Iran is underreporting the number of cases of the new virus as cases across the Gulf countries have emerged in recent days linked back to the Islamic Republic.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday halted travel to Mecca and Madina over fears about a viral epidemic just months ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage, a move that came as the Mideast has over 220 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

The extraordinary decision by Saudi Arabia stops foreigners from reaching the holy city of Mecca and the Kaaba. The decision also affected travel to Prophet Muhammad's mosque in Madina. Authorities also suspended entry to the kingdom to those with tourist visas from nations affected by the new virus.

The decision showed the worry about the outbreak potentially spreading into Saudi Arabia.

The epicentre in the Mideast's most-affected country, Iran, appears to be in the holy Shiite city of Qom, where the faithful in reverence reach out to kiss and touch a famous shrine.

Iran now has the highest death toll from the virus outside of China, where the outbreak began.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Health Ministry on Thursday announced the first coronavirus case in the capital, Baghdad, bringing the overall number of cases reported in the country to six. All have been linked to Iran.

Iraq has taken drastic measures to stem the spread, including ordering schools and universities closed for 10 days, starting Thursday.

The government also banned public gatherings and ordered the closures of cinemas, cafes, clubs and other social forums for the same period. It wasn't immediately clear whether the ban of public gatherings would include anti-government protest sites such as Baghdad's landmark Tahrir Square, where demonstrators have been staging a sit-in for months.

This came as one new case in Israel brought the total in that country to three.