Iranian cyberpolice on Wednesday announced the arrests of 24 people accused of online rumour-mongering about the spread of a coronavirus outbreak that has claimed 19 lives in the country.
The Islamic republic is scrambling to contain Covid-19 a week after announcing the first two deaths in Qom, a centre for Islamic studies that draws pilgrims and scholars from abroad.
Schools, universities and cultural centres have been closed, sporting events cancelled, and teams of sanitary workers deployed to disinfect buses, trains and public spaces.
International health experts have expressed concern about Iran's handling of the outbreak – the deadliest for any country other than China.
Such worries mounted on Tuesday when the head of the task-force combatting the virus, Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi, admitted he himself had been infected.
But health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the situation was "improving" even as he announced four more deaths and 44 new infections, including in six previously unaffected provinces.
The head of a newly established cyberpolice unit announced the arrest of 24 people accused of online rumour-mongering about the spread of the virus.
They were handed over to the judiciary, while 118 other internet users were briefly detained and received warnings, Vahid Majid said, cited by semi-official news agency ISNA.
The arrests were carried out after the establishment of a special unit to "combat rumour-mongers regarding the 'spread of coronavirus in the country'", he was quoted as saying. (AFP)