UAE suspends flights to and from Iran over coronavirus outbreak

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Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, has limited flights to Iran over the outbreak of the new coronavirus. (AFP file photo)
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A picture taken on Feb. 24, 2020, shows a view of a hotel in the Kuwaiti capital where Kuwaitis returning from Iran are quarantined and tested for coronavirus COVID-19. (AFP)
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A picture taken on Feb. 24, 2020, shows a view of a hotel in the Kuwaiti capital where Kuwaitis returning from Iran are quarantined and tested for coronavirus COVID-19. (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

UAE suspends flights to and from Iran over coronavirus outbreak

  • Kuwait says coronavirus cases have risen to eight
  • Bahrain reports six new cases, all patients transited Dubai from Iran

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday has suspended all cargo and commercial flights to and from Iran for one week over the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

The decision, which could be up for extension, was a precautionary measure undertaken by the UAE to ensure strict monitoring and prevention of the spread of the new coronavirus, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said.

Dubai has been screening passengers on incoming flights from China, where the outbreak began. Long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad are among the few international airlines.

UAE authorities earlier also called on citizens to avoid travel to Thailand ‘until further notice’ as a precaution against the virus outbreak.

Iraqi health officials on Tuesday banned the entry of travelers coming from Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Singapore.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Iraq reported their first cases of the China coronavirus on Monday as Gulf countries moved to stop an outbreak in Iran from spreading.

Kuwait on Tuesday said diagnosed cases have risen to eight, including two female passengers arriving from the Iranian city of Mashhad, a 53-year-old Kuwaiti man, a 61-year-old Saudi citizen, and a 21-year-old stateless Arab.

The country also banned flights to and from Iraq, Italy, South Korea, and Thailand, according to Kuwait's state news agency, KUNA.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health said it was coordinating with Kuwaiti health authorities to treat the Saudi national, adding that the patient would remain in Kuwait until they were cured.

Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Kuwait said the condition of the Saudi citizen is stable and he is in no danger.
The statement also called on citizens to follow the instructions issued by the Kuwaiti health ministry and contact the embassy in the event of an emergency.

Kuwaiti special forces wearing protective masks are seen at the entrance to a hotel where people evacuated from Iran are being held in quarantine, in Fahaheel, Kuwait Feb. 24,2020. (Reuters)

Bahrain said two people had the virus diagnosed after arriving from Iran and travelling through Dubai.

The first patient “was transferred to the Ebrahim Khalil Kanoo Medical Centre for immediate testing, treatment and isolation under the supervision of a specialized medical team,” Bahrain News Agency said. The school bus driver, had worked on Sunday, dropping off children at schools, that were later closed down.

The second patient, a Bahraini woman was examined as she arrived at Bahrain International Airport having traveled through Dubai. Her husband and her sister-in-law, who were traveling with her, tested negative for the virus but were also placed in quarantine.

Bahrain also suspended flights to and from Dubai International Airport and Sharjah International Airport for 48 hours, Bahrain News Agency said early Tuesday.
Oman’s health ministry said its first two cases are Omani women who had visited Iran. Oman TV said the women were in a stable condition, it added.
Oman suspended flights to and from Iran, the Public Authority of Civil Aviation (PACA) said.
At least 250 people arriving from countries affected by coronavirus were quarantined on suspicion of infection, Oman’s Minister of Health Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Saidi said.
Iraq, which on Monday also reported its first case of the virus, has shut its Safwan border crossing with Kuwait to travelers and trade at Kuwait's request, the local mayor said on Monday.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The outbreak in Iran forced the government there to dismiss one lawmaker’s claim the toll could be as high as 50.
The cases have prompted travel bans from nearby countries trying to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
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 Shiite pilgrims.
Around a third of Kuwait’s 1.4 million citizens are Shiites, who travel regularly to Iran to visit religious shrines. Kuwait also hosts roughly 50,000 Iranian workers.
Over half of Bahrain's population are Shiites, who also travel frequently to Iran.
The UAE has already announced 13 cases of the 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. Around half a million Iranians live and work in the UAE.
Saudi Arabia remains free of the virus, but has suspended flights to China.
Qatar Airways said on Monday that people arriving from Iran and South Korea would be asked to stay in home isolation or a quarantine facility for 14 days.

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Updated 5 min 37 sec ago

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year

TEHRAN: Iran’s low voter turnout reflects a wider malaise in a country long buckling under sanctions and more recently also hit hard by the coronavirus, spelling “a threat for everyone,” Tehran’s mayor Pirouz Hanachi told AFP.

“The turnout at the ballot box is a sign of people’s satisfaction level,” said Hanachi, mayor of Iran’s political and business center and largest city, with more than 8 million people.

“When there is dissatisfaction with the government or the state, it then reaches everyone and that includes the municipality too,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Iran has suffered the double blow of a sharp economic downturn caused by US economic sanctions over its contested nuclear program, and the region’s most deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Reformists allied with moderate President Hassan Rouhani lost their parliamentary majority in a landslide conservative victory in February, in a major setback ahead of presidential elections next year.

Voter turnout hit a historic low of less than 43 percent in the February polls after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running by the Islamic republic’s powerful Guardian Council.

Such voter fatigue “can be a threat for everyone, not just reformists or conservatives,” warned the mayor, a veteran public servant with a background in urban development who is tied to the reformist camp.

The conservative resurgence reflects dissatisfaction with the Rouhani camp that had sought reengagement with the West and the reward of economic benefits — hopes that were dashed when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year.

“We’re doing our best, but our situation is not a normal one,” Hanachi said. “We are under sanctions and in a tough economic situation.”

As he spoke in his town hall office, the shouts of angry garbage truck drivers echoed from the street outside, complaining they had not received pay or pensions for months.

The mayor downplayed the small rally as the kind of event that could happen in “a municipality in any other country,” adding that the men were employed not by the city itself but by contractors.

Iran’s fragile economy, increasingly cut off from international trade and deprived of crucial oil revenues, took another major blow when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in late February.

Since then the outbreak has killed more than 12,000 people and infected over 248,000, with daily fatalities reaching a record of 200 early this week, according to official figures.

A temporary shutdown of the economy in recent months and closed borders sharply reduced non-oil exports, Iran’s increasingly important lifeline.

This accelerated the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, threatening to further stoke an already high inflation rate.

In just one impact, said Hanachi, the Teheran municipality lost 2 trillion rial ($9 million) because of sharply reduced demand for public transport in recent months.

As many Tehran residents got back into their cars to avoid tightly packed subways and buses, this has done nothing to help solve Tehran’s long-standing air pollution issue.

Tehran has had only 15 “clean” air quality days since the March 20 Persian New Year, according to the municipality.

One of Hanachi’s tasks is to fight both the virus and air pollution — a tough juggling act as car travel is safer for individuals but also worsens the smog that often cloaks the capital.

The mayor said he worried that, after restrictions on car travel were reimposed in May to reduce air pollution, subways are once again packed during peak hours, as is the bustling city center.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is now crowded with shoppers, warned Hanachi, “can become a focal point for the epidemic.”