LONDON: Countries in the Middle East are taking various measures to protect their citizens from the coronavirus outbreak that originated in China.
Cases in Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq have increased over the last few days and blame has been directed toward Iran which is a pilgrimage destination for Shiite Muslims.
Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.
Flights to areas where there are a large number of people infected with the virus have been cancelled, schools and universities in Kuwait have announced plans to close temporarily and embassies are urging their citizens to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
20:45 - Bahrain’s health ministry said that it has discovered seven new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of people infected with the virus to 33.
20:00 - Qatar’s emir has ordered the evacuation of Qatari and Kuwaiti citizens from Iran.
19:00 - Iraq banned all public gatherings and banned travelers from Kuwait and Bahrain from entry, the health minister said on Wednesday, taking the total number of countries on the entry ban list to nine amid growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus.
Iraqi citizens are now also banned from travelling to the nine countries which are China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Bahrain, and Kuwait.
He also ordered the suspension of schools and university and the closure of cinemas, cafes, clubs, and other public gathering spots nationwide from Feb. 27 to March 7.
18:00 - Six Saudi women were declared by the Bahraini Ministry of Health to be among nine of the latest confirmed new cases of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Also, on Wednesday, Kuwait said it had recorded its first case of a Saudi citizen contracting the virus.
Earlier, The King Fahd Causeway Authority in Saudi Arabia released a statement saying the causeway remains accessible to travelers of both directions to and from the Kingdom as per usual.
17:50 - Iranian authorities restrict domestic travel for people with confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus "instead of quarantining cities" Health Minister Saeed Namaki said.
17:05 - All coronavirus patients in Bahrain who returned from Iran are in a stable condition, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.
17:00 - The first two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Pakistan, the country’s Health Minister Zafar Mirza said.
16:45 - Royal Jordanian Airlines has suspended its Amman to Rome flights until further notice amid fears of coronavirus, the state carrier announced.
15:45 - The US State Department issued a travel advisory for Iran warning US citizens of possible risks of kidnapping and detention. It also urged increased caution due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
15:15 - Iran is concealing coronavirus figures and is blocking independent reporting, Reporters Without Borders said.
The Islamic Republic is concealing information about the epidemic in line with China’s example and has obstructed journalists trying to cover the story, the organization said.
14:55 - Lebanon’s health ministry confirmed a second case of coronavirus in the country.
14:48 - Coronavirus is not just affecting the Middle East - the Ireland vs Italy Six Nations rugby match that was due to take place on Mar. 7 in Dublin has been postponed following a recommendation from Irish health authorities, the Irish Rugby Union announced.
14:15 - Iranian cyberpolice have arrested 24 people accused of online rumor-mongering about the spread of the coronavirus in the country, semi-official news agency ISNA reported on Wednesday.
13:30 - Kuwait’s Ministry of Education has decided to close all schools and universities in the country from Mar.1 for a period of two weeks.
Kuwait's health ministry said on Twitter that the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus in the country had risen to 26 after 14 more cases were confirmed.
13:00 - Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways has suspended flights to Hong Kong until Mar. 28, the airline said on Wednesday, citing a drop in demand.
The UAE suspended all flights to mainland China, except Beijing, on Feb. 5 amid the coronavirus outbreak there.
Etihad has suspended flights to Hong Kong since Feb. 21, it said.
12:55 - The United Arab Emirates is ready for "worst case scenarios" as the coronavirus spreads in the Middle East and has the facilities to quarantine patients and screen new arrivals, a government official said on Wednesday.
It was too early to ban public gatherings in the business, trade and tourism hub, the official from the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority added.
The UAE has reported 13 cases of the new coronavirus since Jan. 28, three of whom have recovered.
12:50 - Iran's president said Tehran has no immediate plans to quarantine cities over the new coronavirus rapidly spreading across the country, even as the Islamic Republic suffers the highest death toll outside of China with 19 killed amid 139 cases confirmed on Wednesday.
President Hassan Rouhani went on to acknowledge that it may take “one, two or three weeks” to get control of the virus in Iran, linked to most of the over 210 confirmed cases of the virus now spread across the Mideast. That comes after the top official in charge of Iran's response to the coronavirus tested positive for the illness after a day earlier trying to downplay the disease.
12:30 - Saudi Arabia advised its citizens on Wednesday to delay unnecessary travel to Turkey over fears of coronavirus.
The Embassy in Ankara added that Saudi citizens who are already in Turkey should take necessary precautions as outlined by the Saudi Ministry of Health and avoid crowded areas.
The Embassy also advised citizens to contact it or a consulate straight away to ask for assistance should it be required, and to follow instructions issued it via official channels.
More than 100 Turks are being quarantined after returning from coronavirus-hit Iran, Turkey's health minister said on Tuesday.
The 132 passengers were evacuated to Ankara from Tehran as part of a Turkish government operation, Fahrettin Koca said in a statement.
Turkey has yet to confirm a single case of the novel coronavirus but neighbouring Iran has been hit by the deadliest outbreak outside of China.
08:00 - Egyptair said it would postpone the resumption of its flights to and from China because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
The Egyptian national airliner first suspended its flights to China on Feb.1, and had said it would resume services from Thursday.