Tehran: Two Iranians have died in hospital after testing positive for the new coronavirus in Qom, the head of the city's University of Medical Sciences told Mehr news agency on Wednesday.
"Two Iranians, who tested positive earlier today for new coronavirus, died of respiratory illness," the official told Mehr.
They are also the first deaths from the COVID-19 virus in the Middle East and only the seventh and eighth outside China where the outbreak has killed more than 2,000 people.
State news agency IRNA quoted Kianoush Jahanpour, a ministry spokesman, as saying the virus was detected in two elderly people with immunity problems.
Iran's health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur confirmed their death on Twitter.
Iran confirmed earlier on Wednesday its first two cases of the virus, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said, shortly after reports that preliminary tests on the two had come back positive.
The health ministry said earlier that the patients had been put in isolation.
Rabiei did not give the nationality of the two people infected, but some reports suggested that they were Iranian nationals.
The death toll from the new coronavirus in mainland China passed 2,000 on Wednesday although the number of new cases fell for a second straight day, as authorities tightened already severe containment measures in the worst-hit city of Wuhan.