AFP / Dubai
The new coronavirus hit four more Middle Eastern states yesterday, with Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman reporting new cases.
Oman also halted flights to and from Iran — which is battling the deadliest outbreak outside China – with immediate effect.
The move came shortly after two Omani women who had returned from Iran were diagnosed with the disease.
The three cases in Kuwait and the one in Bahrain were also in individuals who had returned from Iran, where the virus has claimed the lives of 12 people.
Bahrain also shut three schools after a man who had transported children to the institutions tested positive after returning from Iran on February 21 via Dubai airport, the health ministry said.
In Kuwait, a 53-year-old Kuwaiti, a 61-year-old Saudi national and a 21-year-old stateless Arab who tested positive had all returned from Iran’s holy city of Mashhad, the Kuwaiti health ministry said. In Iraq, the virus was confirmed in an Iranian national studying in the southern shrine city of Najaf, health officials said.
Iran’s confirmed death toll rose to 12 yesterday, with the government vowing to be transparent and dismissing a lawmaker’s claim the toll could be as high as 50.
The outbreak has prompted travel bans from nearby countries.
Last week, Kuwait banned entry of all ships from the Islamic republic and suspended flights to and from the country.
Kuwait also banned non-citizens coming from Iran from entering the Gulf state and operated chartered flights to bring back hundreds of Kuwaiti pilgrims from the Islamic republic.
Around a third of Kuwait’s 1.4mn citizens travel regularly to Iran to visit religious shrines.
Kuwait also hosts roughly 50,000 Iranian workers.
The United Arab Emirates has already announced 13 cases of the novel coronavirus, all of them foreigners.
The latest were a 70-year-old Iranian man, whose condition is unstable, and his 64-year-old wife.
UAE airlines have suspended most flights to China — where the virus first emerged in December — except to the capital Beijing, but have not yet taken any measures to restrict travel to and from Iran.
China’s death toll from Covid-19 rose to nearly 2,600 yesterday, while the virus has now spread to more than 30 countries.
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