DUBAI: The new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, has prompted global economic concerns, as fears of its spread begin to affect stock markets and oil prices.
Saudi Arabia’s main market, the Tadawul All Share Index, opened 5.3 percent lower on Sunday, trading near 10,700 points.
The Dubai Financial Market was down 8.49 percent.
Oil prices stumbled in their biggest decline since April 2020, with Brent prices dropping 11.55 percent to $72.72 per barrel when markets closed on Friday, while WTI slid 13.06 percent down to $68.15 per barrel.
The variant was first discovered in South Africa and had also since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, the UK, Australia and Hong Kong.
Within the Middle East Israel is the only country to have reported a case of the new variant so far, but some governments in the region have issued travel curbs to prevent the virus from spreading.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia expanded the list of African countries where it barred travel because of Omicron, adding Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, Mauritius and the Comoros Islands.
The Kingdom earlier halted flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.
Other Middle East countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Jordan have issued similar measures.