Coronavirus in the Middle East: February 28 updates

Thirteen new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Middle East since Thursday’s update — six in the UAE, two each in Oman and Kuwait, and one each in Iraq, Israel and Lebanon.

The latest tally 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 (-)
Egypt 1 (-)
Iraq 7 (+1)
Israel 3 (+1)
Kuwait 45 (+2)
Lebanon 3 (+1)
Oman 6 (+2)
UAE 19 (+6)

CLICK HERE for previous updates

Today’s cumulative total of 116 confirmed cases shows the number has doubled since Tuesday when the count was only 57. On a more positive note, no deaths have been reported so far, some of those diagnosed are now said to have recovered, and almost all the confirmed cases appear to involve people who caught the virus while abroad — mostly in Iran.

The rapid increase in numbers in some Gulf countries is at least partly a result of concerted detection efforts — checking people as they arrive at airports and isolating them if necessary. The apparent spike of 17 new cases reported in Kuwait on Thursday is one example. All 17 were among 1,675 people tested on arrival from affected countries.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have not yet reported any cases. This is rather surprising in view of the situation among their Gulf neighbours and has given rise to speculation about possible concealment.

Saudi Arabia’s decision to suspend pilgrimage travel, announced on Thursday, is having knock-on effects elsewhere. High season for Umrah (the “lesser” pilgrimage) began on Tuesday and Ahram Online reports that thousands of Egyptians face cancelled trips. Under Egyptian law airlines and travel companies must provide a refund or offer an alternative travel date.

Country-by-country round-up

Algeria: The national airline, Air Algérie, has suspended flights to “the holy places of Islam”.

Bahrain: The Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday that it has “begun implementing” a plan to evacuate its citizens from Iran. The plan includes screening and quarantine procedures. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said the 33 cases currently being treated in Bahrain are showing “ positive signs of recovery”.

Egypt: The health minister said on Thursday that people arriving in Egypt by air or sea are being tested and that anyone suspected of having the virus will be quarantined for 14 days. Those arriving from countries where the virus has spread are being checked periodically for 14 days if the initial test is negative.

Iraq: One new case — involving a 51-year-old man who was recently in Iran — has been confirmed, bringing the total to seven.

Israel confirmed a new case on Thursday, bringing the total to three. The latest one is an Israeli man who flew back from Milan on 23 February and has since developed symptoms. He was not previously in quarantine. The Times of Israel reports that a 40-year-old man who recently returned from Thailand was arrested for breaking quarantine to visit his relatives. A court later ordered his release.

Kuwait: The health ministry reported two new cases on Friday. On Thursday, 22 Kuwaitis evacuated from Iran arrived back on a Qatar Airways flight from Shiraz and have been placed in quarantine.

Lebanon confirmed a third cas e on Thursday — an Iranian who arrived in the country on 24 February and was taken to hospital after developing symptoms.

Oman confirmed two new cases on Thursday, bringing the total to six. Both new cases are said to be related to people who travelled to Iran and have been quarantined at home.

Qatar has evacuated an unspecified number of its citizens from Iran and they will be quarantined in a hotel for the next two weeks.

● The UAE confirmed six new cases on Thursday — four Iranians, one Chinese and one Bahraini — bringing the total to 19. The six had all arrived from Iran before the current travel ban was announced.

Yemen: Quarantine facilities are being prepared at al-Sadaqa hospital in Aden. According to the Saudi newspaper Arab News, hospital workers staged a sit-in and local residents protested outside, fearing that this could spread the virus in surrounding areas.

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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