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Iran says new virus killed 43 people with 593 confirmed cases

The new figures from Iran pushes the total cases in the Middle East to over 720.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Iran Health Ministry spokesman says the new coronavirus has killed 43 people amid 593 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic. The spokesman gave the new figure Saturday.

Iran has the world’s highest death toll outside of China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

The health ministry urged people to stay away from mass gatherings and limit their travel. The Islamic Republic is preparing for the possibility of “tens of thousands” coming to test for the new coronavirus.

The new figures from Iran pushes the total cases in the Middle East to over 720.

Earlier Saturday, Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travelers who came from Iran and hadn't been tested for the new coronavirus and also barred public gatherings for two weeks. 

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has even called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be “serious consequences” if the illness spreads to the country. The North has yet to report its first infection from the new coronavirus, but it has been pushing a tough campaign it has described as a matter of “national existence.”

The country has shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized tens of thousands of health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.

The virus has caused the United States to postpone a meeting of leaders of Southeast Asian nations that was set for Las Vegas in mid-March. That's according to a senior Trump administration official.

President Donald Trump had invited the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to meet in the U.S. after he skipped last year's meeting in Thailand. The official said the U.S. had consulted with its ASEAN partners before making the “difficult decision” to postpone the meeting. 

The Philippine ambassador to Washington said the White House notified the Philippines and other ASEAN member states’ embassies about the postponement Friday, citing the global concerns on the viral outbreak.

The coronavirus concern has even caused travel warnings. Federal health officials Friday urged Americans not to travel to Iran or Italy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised the warning to level 3 for Iran and Italy, which now puts them under the same status that South Korea and China are under.

RELATED: CDC adds Italy and Iran to list of countries to avoid amid coronavirus outbreak

The CDC designation warns that travelers need to "avoid nonessential travel" to those countries.

The list of countries touched by the illness has climbed to nearly 60 as Mexico, Belarus, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iceland and the Netherlands reported their first cases. More than 84,000 people worldwide have contracted the illness. 

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In the United States, a few new positive cases of the virus have been announced. Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state are worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities.

Washington state health officials announced two new coronavirus cases Friday night. Neither people were seriously ill, authorities said.

Several hours before Washington's announcement, Oregon confirmed its first coronavirus case, a person who works at an elementary school in the Portland area, which will be temporarily closed.

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Earlier U.S. cases involved people who were evacuated from China, the epicenter of the outbreak, and American passengers from the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan.

U.S. federal health officials want to get virus testing up and running in every state. The Trump administration may invoke a 70-year-old law to guarantee a range of needed supplies.

Two days after the White House shifted gears from Trump's initial assurances of minimal fallout to a mobilization under Vice President Mike Pence, the administration's messaging still isn't completely seamless.

During a rally on Friday, President Trump accused Democrats of "politicizing" the deadly virus. He denounced criticisms of his response to the threat as a “hoax" cooked up by his political enemies.

Congress is working on a spending bill for anti-virus efforts to be unveiled next week.

U.S. stocks have been feeling the effects of the fears surrounding the virus. On Friday, they sank again rounding out the worst week since October 2008. The falling numbers come a day after the Dow Jones lost 1,190.95 points -- the second thousand-point drop this week.

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The price of oil has been dropping precipitously as global demand weakens even further. That has sent shares tumbling for oil giants like Exxon and Chevron while smaller producers with idling rigs continue to slash jobs.