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Iran COVID-19 cases show ‘window of opportunity’ to limit outbreak is narrowing: WHO

Click to play video 'COVID-19: Iran says virus has spread to several cities, reports at 2 new deaths' COVID-19: Iran says virus has spread to several cities, reports at 2 new deaths
WATCH: Iran says virus has spread to several cities, reports at 2 new deaths – Feb 21, 2020

Cases of COVID-19 linked to Iran are a “worrisome” sign that the world may be running out of time to contain the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease, the World Health Organization said Friday.

At a press conference, WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the news from Iran was concerning.

It’s still possible to contain the virus and keep it from spreading around the world, he said.

“The window of opportunity is still there. But our window of opportunity is narrowing.”

The world needs to act quickly to prevent further spread of the disease, he said.

Click to play video 'New case of COVID-19 reported in B.C. after woman returns from Iran' New case of COVID-19 reported in B.C. after woman returns from Iran
New case of COVID-19 reported in B.C. after woman returns from Iran – Feb 20, 2020

Iran has reported 18 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, with four deaths. The country’s outbreak began in the city of Qom, but officials say it has reached Isfahan, Tehran and several other cities.

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READ MORE: 6th case of COVID-19 reported in B.C., contracted by woman visiting Iran

Late Thursday, B.C. health officials reported the province’s sixth case of the disease, in a woman who had never visited China. The patient, a woman in her 30s, had visited Iran in January and seemed to have contracted the disease there, officials said.

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“We were surprised, as you can imagine,” Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said about the case, which is the first in the province without a connection to China.

Click to play video 'COVID-19: China reports 200 cases in two prisons, South Korea sees increase' COVID-19: China reports 200 cases in two prisons, South Korea sees increase
COVID-19: China reports 200 cases in two prisons, South Korea sees increase – Feb 21, 2020

Lebanon also reported its first case of COVID-19 Thursday, in a woman who had also visited Iran. Two other suspected cases are being monitored, health officials said.

Worldwide, there have been more than 76,000 cases of COVID-19, with more than 2,200 deaths as of Friday morning – the vast majority of which are in China.

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READ MORE: China reports decline in new COVID-19 cases as total deaths number 2,236

“We are following this virus 24/7, around the clock,” Tedros said.

“We still believe that we can contain the virus,” but the world must prepare for any eventuality, he said.

“This outbreak could go in any direction,” he said. “If we do well, we can avert any serious crisis, but if we squander the opportunity then we will have a serious problem on our hands.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: Coronavirus multiplies eight-fold in South Korea as cases jump to 433

— with files from Reuters and Global News