Iran has reported two more deaths from the new coronavirus that emerged in China and said the fatalities were from among 13 new confirmed cases of the virus.

The report by the semi-official Mehr news agency came as Iranians voted in nationwide parliamentary elections.

After authorities reported two deaths earlier this week, the death toll from Covid-19 stands at four.

So far, 18 cases have been confirmed in Iran, including the four who died.

Voters wearing face masks check the list of the candidates in the parliamentary elections in a polling station in Tehran, Iran
Voters wearing face masks in a polling station in Tehran, Iran (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the newly detected cases are all linked with the city of Qom, where the first two elderly patients died on Wednesday.

Mr Jahanpour said the new cases were either from Qom or had visited the city recently.

He said four of them are in hospital in the capital Tehran and two in the northern province of Gilan.

Minoo Mohraz, an Iranian health ministry official, said the virus “possibly came from Chinese workers who work in Qom and travelled to China”.

A Chinese company has been building a solar power plant in Qom.

In Lebanon, health minister Hamad Hassan reported the Mediterranean country’s first case of the new virus.

At a news conference in Beirut, he said the patient was a 45-year-old woman who arrived on Thursday on a flight from Qom.

He said the woman was in “good health” and the ministry was also following up on the cases of two other people suspected of having the illness.

The woman and two other suspected victims were quarantined at the Rafik Hariri government hospital in Beirut.

Concerns over the spread of the virus, which originated in central China, prompted authorities in Iran this week to close all schools and Shiite seminaries in Qom, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) south of Tehran.

Earlier news reports said Iran had recently evacuated 60 Iranian students from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicentre of the epidemic.

An official in a protective suit takes the temperature of a passenger disembarking from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, near Tokyo
An official in a protective suit takes the temperature of a passenger disembarking from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

The students were quarantined upon their return to Iran and were discharged after 14 days without any health problems.

Qom is a popular religious destination and a centre of learning and religious studies for Shiite Muslims from inside Iran, as well as Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.

It is also known for its cattle farms.

Iran once relied heavily on China to buy its oil and some Chinese companies have continued doing business with Iran in the face of US sanctions.

Unlike other countries – such as Saudi Arabia, which barred its citizens and residents from travelling to China – Iran has not imposed such measures on travel there.

The new virus emerged in China in December.

Since then, more than 76,000 people have been infected globally, with more than 2,200 deaths being reported, mostly in China.

There have been few virus cases in the Middle East so far.

Nine cases have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, which is a popular tourist destination, and one case in Egypt.

Of the nine in the UAE, seven are Chinese nationals, one is a Filipino and another an Indian national.

Iran’s neighbour Iraq, which has reported no cases of the virus, took measures to contain it by suspending visas on arrival for Iranian passport holders and direct flights between the two countries.