Tehran(ANN)-At least 194 people have died and more than 1,000 poisoned since March 6 because they consumed bootleg alcohol, an Iranian official said Saturday, Anadolu Agency reports.

Ahwaz University of Medical Sciences spokesman Ali Ehsanpour told the country’s official news agency IRNA that rumors on social media claiming alcohol could cure the coronavirus plays a big role in the deaths.

Iranian prosecutors announced 17 arrests as part of its investigation.

The sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages are prohibited among Muslims in Iran. Under Iranian law, those who produce, buy or sell alcohol can be sentenced to prison and receive lashes.

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Health officials said Saturday the death toll in Iran is at 1,556 out of 20,600 cases. And 7,635 patients who were treated for the virus known as COVID-19 have been discharged from hospitals.

The virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China last December, has spread to at least 167 countries and regions around the globe, while the tally of confirmed cases more than 304,000, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The global death toll is now approaching 13,000, causing a chain reaction as governments place countries on lockdown to stem the spread.

Italy, China, Iran, and Spain continue to be the most affected countries.

Despite the rising number of cases, a vast majority of those infected suffer mild symptoms and recover, with almost 92,000 patients having recovered. reported by Memo.