Coronavirus can kill millions of people in this country, it's Not China

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TEHRAN - Iran issued its most dire warning yet on Tuesday about the outbreak of the new coronavirus ravaging the country, suggesting millions could die in the Islamic Republic if the public keeps travelling and ignoring health guidance.

A state television journalist who also is a medical doctor gave the warning only hours after hard-line Shia faithful had last night pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that had just been closed over fears of the virus.

Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader issued a religious ruling prohibiting unnecessary travel in the country.

Roughly nine out of 10 of the over 18,000 cases of the new virus confirmed across the Middle East come from Iran, where authorities denied for days the risk the outbreak posed. Officials have now implemented new checks for people trying to leave major cities ahead of Nauroz, the Persian New Year, on Friday, but have hesitated to quarantine the areas.

That's even as the death toll in Iran saw another 13 per cent increase on Tuesday. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the virus had killed 135 more people to raise the total to 988 amid over 16,000 cases.