Middle East countries attempt to stem spread of coronavirus from Iran

An Iraqi cleric wearing a protective mask walks by in the central holy city of Najaf, on February 26, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 27 February 2020

Middle East countries attempt to stem spread of coronavirus from Iran

  • Cases in Bahrain, Kuwait and Iraq have increased over the last few days
  • Blame has been directed toward Iran which is a pilgrimage destination for Shiite Muslims

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.

A member of the Iraqi civil defense sprays disinfectant on and around a building where Islamic students are quarantined for having had contact with Iraq's first confirmed case of novel coronavirus infection, in the central holy city of Najaf. (AFP)

A man wearing a surgical mask is pictured in the heart of the Bahraini capital Manama on February 26, 2020. The first case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Bahrain was of a man who had transported children to three schools after returning home from Iran via Dubai airport, on February 21. (AFP)

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. 

Anti-government protesters hold up banners in Arabic that read, "You are the coronavirus, you are the epidemic, (right) and Humiliation, bankruptcy, looting, starving and killing the rest of us, (center)," during ongoing protests against the Lebanese government in front of the Lebanese Ministry of Health, in Beirut. (AP)

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.

A Kuwaiti boy wears a protective face mask, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, as he throws water at passing cars, during celebrations for the 29th Kuwait Liberation Day from the Iraqi occupation, in Kuwait City. (Reuters)

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.

In this Monday Feb. 24, 2020 image made from video the head of Iran's counter-coronavirus task force, Iraj Harirchi, left, wipes his face during a press briefing with government spokesman Ali Rabiei, in Tehran, Iran. Harirchi, has tested positive for the virus himself. (AP)

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.

Tehran Municipality workers clean a metro train to avoid the spread of coronavirus on February 26, 2020. (AFP)

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.

UAE completes 39 evacuations of citizens from abroad amid coronavirus crisis

Updated 11 min 32 sec ago

UAE completes 39 evacuations of citizens from abroad amid coronavirus crisis

  • The ministry is preparing 25 more flights to repatriate Emiratis
  • UAE nationals can register on a website to be evacuated

DUBAI: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has repatriated 1,743 nationals who had become stranded abroad because of the coronavirus crisis, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.
The operation has so far involved 39 flights, with a further 25 to follow in the next few days despite the grounding of most of the world’s airlines, Undersecretary of the ministry Khaled Abdullah Belhoul said.
Emiratis abroad who wish to return home need to register online through the website, https://www.research.net/r/mofa-nat, to be included in future evacuation trips.
Meanwhile, the UAE has also cooperated with Iraqi and German authorities to help them repatriate their own nationals from the country.