Coronavirus in the Middle East: February 26 updates

Twenty-three new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Arab countries since yesterday’s report, and Algeria is a newcomer to the list. Excluding Iran (where details are very confused), the latest tally of cases in the rest of the Middle East region is as follows:

Algeria 1 (+1)
Bahrain 26 (+3)
Egypt 1 (see note)
Iraq 5 (-)
Israel 2 (-)
Kuwait 26 (+18)
Lebanon 2 (+1)
Oman 4 (-)
UAE 13 (-)

Algeria has reported its first coronavirus case — an Italian man who arrived in the country on February 17.

Bahrain, the Arab country with the highest number of cases, reported three more on Wednesday, bringing the total to 26. The latest cases are three women who had arrived on indirect flights from Iran before travel restrictions were introduced. The Ministry of Health has called on everyone who has visited Iran during February to come forward for testing. All schools, universities and nurseries in Bahrain were closed on Tuesday and will remain closed for the next two weeks.

Iraq has reported no new cases. In Najaf, where an Iranian student at a Shia seminary was diagnosed with the virus on Monday, the Imam Ali mausoleum — a major pilgrimage site — has been closed to visitors. Schools and universities in Najaf province have been closed for at least the next 10 days. A ban on travellers from China and Iran was extended on Tuesday to include Thailand, South Korean, Japan, Italy and Singapore.

Kuwait reported a series of new cases, bringing the total to 26 by Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday Kuwait extended its travel restrictions to include Singapore and Japan. Kuwaitis arriving from those countries will be quarantined and non-Kuwaitis will be refused admission, even if they have valid visas. There are also restrictions on ship arrivals and parcel deliveries from affected countries. The government has commandeered Al-Khiran holiday resort, about 90km from Kuwait city, which it plans to use for quarantine purposes.

Lebanon reported a second confirmed case on Wednesday. Both cases are women who returned from a religious visit to Iran on the same flight. Lebanon announced on Tuesday that it will “restrict” flights to countries affected by the virus and will completely stop religious pilgrimage flights.

Oman has reported no new cases. The operator of Oman’s Khasab port announced it is suspending the import and export of all Iranian goods from Wednesday. Flights to and from Iran were suspended on Monday.

● The UAE is to carry out “complete surveillance of all people entering the country”, according to a government official quoted by Reuters. Of the 13 people diagnosed with the virus in the UAE, three are said to have recovered and two are in a critical condition.

Originally published at https://al-bab.com.

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: www.al-bab.com. Author of 'Arabs Without God'.

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