Coronavirus in the Middle East: February 27 updates

Twenty-five new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Arab countries since Wednesday’s update — 17 in Kuwait, seven in Bahrain and one in Iraq.

The latest tally of cases in the Middle East region is below, and this may be updated in the light of developments during the course of the day. Iran, which has the most serious outbreak in the region, is not included because of uncertainty about the figures.

Algeria 1 (-)
Bahrain 33 (+7)
Egypt 1 (see note)
Iraq 6 (+1)
Israel 2 (-)
Kuwait 43 (+17)
Lebanon 2 (-)
Oman 4 (-)
UAE 13 (-)

Bahrain: The Ministry of Health confirmed seven new cases, bringing the total to 33. All these cases have been linked to visits to Iran and on Thursday a ministry official said most were detected through airport checks as soon as they arrived in Bahrain. Bahrain’s civil aviation authority announced on Thursday that it was extending the suspension of flights arriving from Dubai and Sharjah for a further 48 hours. It has also reduced the overall number of incoming regional flights.

Egypt: Flights to and from China, which were suspended by Egyptair on 1 February had been due to resume on Friday but on Thursday the airline announced that it was pushing back the resumption date to 14 March.

Iraq: A young Iraqi man who had travelled from Iran has been confirmed as Iraq’s sixth case. This latest case occurred in Baghdad. The previously confirmed Iraqi cases have been in Kirkuk and Najaf. On Wednesday the authorities announced that more than 8,000 Iraqis who recently visited Iran are being tested for the virus.

Israel is banning the entry of foreign nationals who have been in China, Thailand, Singapore, Japan and South Korea during the last two weeks. The Ministry of Health is urging Israelis not to travel to Italy and says any who returned from Italy after 16 February should be isolated at home for two weeks.

Kuwait: Seventeen new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total to 43. This relatively large number — the highest among the Arab countries — may be explained by Kuwait’s effort to bring its citizens back from Italy and Iran. Following a cabinet meeting on Thursday the government announced that all schools, colleges and universities, including military colleges and religious education centres, will be closed from 1 March until 12 March. The authorities are also taking steps to ensure adequate supplies of face masks and sanitising products. Kuwait’s municipality says it will provide face masks and hand sanitisers for mourners are funerals (which often attract large crowds).

Qatar has ordered the evacuation of its citizens from Iran (and appears to be helping evacuate Kuwaitis too). So far, Qatar has no confirmed cases but that may change as a result of the evacuation.

Saudi Arabia, which has so far not reported any coronavirus cases, announced that for the time being foreigners will not be allowed to enter the kingdom on religious visits. It also announced that tourists from countries where there is “a danger” of coronavirus will not be allowed to enter, and imposed restrictions on use of national identity cards for travel between the kingdom and other Gulf Cooperation Council states.

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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