However, a member of parliament said 50 people had died in the city of Qom, 120 km (75 miles) south of the capital Tehran, alone in the past two weeks from the coronavirus.
Meanwhile more than 10,000 drug addicts have been quarantined in treatment centers in Tehran province to guard against the coronavirus, state-run IRNA news agency reported, citing a local official.
Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur, quoted by IRNA, said: “The number of deaths from the corona illness in Iran has reached 12 and the number of infected has reached 61.”
But a parliamentarian representing Qom, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, said that 50 people had died in Qom and 250 people have been quarantined there.
Farahani accused the government of being late too announce the outbreak, and he said the city did not have adequate equipment to deal with the crisis, according to the ILNA news agency.
Ministry spokesman Jahanpur dismissed the figure of 50 dead as a “complete lie”.
“(Farahani) doesn’t have a right to express views on this issue and doesn’t have access to information,” Jahanpur said, according to IRNA.
Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Iraj told a news conference on state television that if the number of dead in Qom were even one quarter of 50 he would resign.
However, the dispute over figures between the officials highlighted criticism of the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran by both officials and Iranian citizens online.
In another development, the head of anti-drug smuggling operations for Tehran province said approximately 10,500 drug addicts have been quarantined at treatment centers in Tehran.
“In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus illness among addicts, the treatment centers for addicts will not release or receive any individual until further notice,” Mostafa Hadizadeh said, according to IRNA.
Anyone suspected of having been infected with coronavirus would receive the necessary care as quickly as possible, Hadizadeh said.
The outbreak in Iran has affected other countries in the region.