Saudi Arabia, Gulf neighbors report more cases of coronavirus

General view of Kaaba at the Grand Mosque which is almost empty of worshippers, after Saudi authority suspended umrah (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) amid the fear of coronavirus outbreak, at Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia March 6, 2020. REUTERS/Ganoo Essa

Several Gulf Arab states recorded new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday including Saudi Arabia, which detected four more infections to take the total to 11, state media reported. The Saudi health ministry said that the newly diagnosed individuals, three of whom are women, interacted with another case reported previously who had been in Iran but did not disclose that fact to the authorities.

The individual traveled from Iran via the United Arab Emirates, the ministry said in a Twitter post. Iran has emerged as an epicenter for the disease in the Middle East. The Islamic republic has reported 194 deaths from the virus on Sunday, putting it on a par with Italy as the country with the highest death toll outside China.

Saudi Arabia banned travel to Iran and said legal actions will be taken against any Saudi national traveling there. Riyadh also called on Tehran to disclose the identity of Saudi citizens who visited Iran since Feb. 1.

The Saudi government on Saturday restricted land crossings with the UAE, Kuwait, and Bahrain to commercial trucks only and said passenger arrivals will be limited to three Saudi airports. In neighboring Kuwait, the health ministry reported two more infections, raising the total to 64. Qatari authorities announced three more cases to bring the total to 15.

Kuwait’s central bank said on Sunday it was setting up a 10 million dinar ($32.79 million) fund to support state efforts to fight the virus. Gulf states have canceled or postponed conferences, sporting events and concerts due to the coronavirus outbreak. Bahrain said on Sunday its Formula One Grand Prix will go ahead this month without spectators due to the coronavirus crisis, a blow to the island state’s tourism sector.

In the UAE, a Wizz Air press conference in Abu Dhabi, planned on Tuesday, has been canceled, organizers said. Oman has canceled all events at the Royal Opera House in the capital Muscat that had been scheduled for March and April as well as tours of the site, state news agency ONA said on Sunday.

Source: Reuters