Middle East takes extra precautions as world grapples with coronavirus outbreak

Middle East takes extra precautions as world grapples with coronavirus outbreak
As the Middle East continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, governments in the region have been taking extra precautions to educate people about the new virus. (AFP)
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Updated 02 March 2020

Middle East takes extra precautions as world grapples with coronavirus outbreak

Middle East takes extra precautions as world grapples with coronavirus outbreak
  • Saudi Arabia announces measures in preparation of cases as Iran death toll hits 54
  • More major sports and business events canceled worldwide

LONDON: As the Middle East continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, governments in the region have been taking extra precautions to educate people about the new virus.

Saudi Arabia's Health Ministry held a press conference on Sunday to announce the Kingdom's latest measures, including announcing that 25 hospitals are prepared and equipped to handle coronavirus cases.

Iran's official death toll hit 54 on Sunday, despite claims by the Iranian opposition that it stood at 367.

Live updates below. (All times GMT)

21:38 - Egypt’s health minister Hala Zayed says 1,443 people had been tested so far for the new coronavirus, only one of whom tested positive and was cleared after being given appropriate medical care. Egypt has also requested the details of coronavirus in two patients in France said to have returned with the illness from Egypt and has sent a medical team to investigate the places they had visited.

19:35 - The season-opening Qatar MotoGP, scheduled to take place on March 8, was cancelled Sunday because of the spread of the coronavirus, the international motorcycling federation (FIM) announced.
"Due to Qatar travel restrictions brought into force affecting passengers from Italy (amongst other countries), the premier class will not race at the Losail circuit," the FIM said.

18:47 - Organizers canceled the CERAWeek energy conference scheduled to take place in Houston from March 9-13. The event annually brings together oil ministers and senior executives from the energy and financial industries.
In its decision to cancel the event, IHSMarkit noted that border health checks are becoming more restrictive and companies have begun barring non-essential travel to protect workers. 

Among the speakers scheduled to attend were chief executives of Saudi Aramco, BP, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, Occidental Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell.



18:27 - Dependants and some staff are being evacuated from the British embassy in Tehran as of March 1 due to coronavirus but essential staff will remain, Britain’s Foreign Office said on Sunday as part of a travel advisory for Iran posted online. “In the event that the situation deteriorates further, the ability of the British Embassy to provide assistance to British nationals from within Iran may be limited,” the advisory said.

18:18 - Morocco will postpone sports and cultural events over coronavirus fears, a government committee charged with overseeing the state’s response to the disease said on Sunday, state media reported.
Morocco says it has tested 25 people suspected of having the coronavirus but so far all the tests have come back negative. The country has not confirmed any cases.

18:17 - Qatar has imposed a temporary entrance restriction to its territories on visitors from Egypt via intermediate points because of the spread of the new coronavirus, the state news agency reported on Sunday.
Qatar discovered 2 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing its total to 3.

Kuwaiti traders wearing protective masks follow the market at the Boursa Kuwait stock exchange in Kuwait City Sunday. (AFP)

18:06 - Kuwait's Ministry of Health says it has taken precautionary health measures for travelers coming from Egypt and Syria via all airlines.
The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Mustafa Reda, told Kuwait News Agency that the measures include preventing passengers who suffer from a rise in temperature to board the plane without providing proof that they have been examined for symptoms of the coronavirus.

18:04 - Oman has suspended Italian tourism flights to its Salala airport for a month to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the civil aviation authority said on Sunday.

15:50 -  Bahrain confirmed six new cases of the virus on Sunday, according to the state news agency BNA. Iraq also announced six new cases, bringing the total number of cases there to 19, the health ministry said.

The ministry said two of the six are in the capital Baghdad and the other four in Sulaimaniya in the north east of the country. All had recently returned from neighbouring Iran, which has had the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside of China, where the outbreak originated.

14:55 - The Louvre museum in Paris kept its doors closed to visitors Sunday as staff withheld labour citing fears over the coronavirus, a union representative told AFP.

Some 300 staff of the world's most visited museum met in the morning and voted "almost unanimously" not to open in the morning, Christian Galani of the CGT labour union told AFP.

The Louvre museum in Paris kept its doors closed to visitors Sunday. (Reuters)

14:40 - UK health authorities on Sunday announced 12 more confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the country's overall tally to 35.

The government's chief medical officer, Prof. Chris Whitty, said one of the new patients “had no relevant travel and it is not yet clear whether they contracted it directly or indirectly from an individual who had recently returned from abroad.”

Whitty said medical workers were still investigating the cause of that one infection.

14:30 - Lebanon's health ministry said on Sunday three more people had tested positive for coronavirus after arriving from Iran, bringing the total in the country to 10. The three patients, who had been in isolation at home, were quarantined at a Beirut hospital after showing symptoms, the ministry said in a statement.

Lebanon closed schools this week and halted flights for non-residents from countries with outbreaks, namely China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

14:10 - Egyptian authorities have been testing staff at the site where tourists later diagnosed with the novel coronavirus had stayed before returning to France, Egypt’s prime minister said late on Saturday.

France said on Friday six travelers returning from Egypt had been diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness, raising an earlier toll of two.

13:30 - Qatar's health ministry announced on Sunday two more cases of coronavirus in the country, according to the ministry's Twitter account. The two Qatari individuals were evacuated from Iran on Feb. 27 and have been under full quarantine, it said.

13:10 - During a press conference on Sunday, a Saudi health ministry spokesman says 25 hospitals in the Kingdom  are prepared to handle coronavirus cases that might be detected. There have been no reported cases of the virus in Saudi Arabia so far.

12:25 Israeli airline El Al said on Sunday it was considering firing 1,000 staff out of its total workforce of around 6,000 due to losses linked to the novel coronavirus outbreak. A company spokesman confirmed the plan to AFP but would not give further details.

El Al Israel Airlines counters are seen at Ben Gurion International airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel February 27, 2020. (Reuters)

10:55 - Iran has denied earlier reports of hundreds dying of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, saying the official death toll is just 54. It also said the cases have reached 978.

10:30 - Iranian opposition said on Sunday the coronavirus death toll in the country stood at 367, which is significantly higher than the official count of 54 given by Iranian authorities.

09:35 - Indian automakers Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M) and Tata Motors said on Sunday their supply of parts from China had been hit, as fallout from the coronavirus outbreak mounts.

"Going into March, we anticipate the challenge on parts-supply to continue for another few weeks, before we get back to normalcy," Veejay Ram Nakra, Chief of Sales and Marketing at M&M's automotive division said in a press release. 

Tata Motors said in a press release that it, too, had been hit by supply disruptions due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, and was working to mitigate the situation. (Reuters/File Photo)

08:40 - Two luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi, which had been in lockdown amid concerns about the coronavirus during a professional cycling event, allowed some guests to leave on Sunday after they tested negative for the disease, company spokespersons said. The W Abu Dhabi and the Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi had been placed under lockdown on Friday as authorities screened all guests, including scores of professional cyclists. There were concerns they might have interacted with two Italian cyclists who were suspected of contracting the disease.

The guests at the two hotels, on Yas Island in the UAE capital, included 140 professional cyclists participating in the final two stages of the UAE Tour, which was also cancelled after the tests.

"No cases have been confirmed at the Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi Yas Island. We are working closely with the local authorities to facilitate the departure of remaining guests," a spokeswoman of the hotel said.

A woman wearing a protective mask walks outside the Crowne Plaza hotel at Yas Island Abu Dhabi on February 28, 2020 where two Italian cyclists participating in the UAE Tour tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus disease, prompting the cancellation of the final stages of the cycling event. (AFP)

07:15 - The Kuwait health ministry confirmed on Sunday one new case of coronavirus in the last 24 hours, added the patient was from Iran. The update brings the total number to 46.

SATURDAY FEB. 29 - 20:00 The UAE Ministry of Health and Community Protection (MOHAP) on Saturday advised against the use of N95 face masks as it could lead to further health problems.  

“We do not advise people to use mask N95 as it restricts breathing and could lead to respiratory illnesses in the future,” a MOHAP spokesman said in a video posted on their official Twitter account, adding that the mask should not be worn by children.

The ministry also stated that the mask was for medical staff that treat infected individuals. 

(With AFP, Reuters, AP)