Coronavirus in the Middle East: the latest developments

Coronavirus cases have now been reported in nine countries in the Middle East. The outbreak in Iran is clearly the most serious in the region, and it may be more extensive than the official figures suggest.

Elsewhere in the region the number of cases is small and no deaths have been reported so far. Most of those infected have previously been in Iran. Here is a round-up …

Bahrain: Ministry of Health announced six new cases on Tuesday morning, bringing the total to eight. These were two Bahrainis and four Saudis who arrived at the airport from Iran via Dubai. On Tuesday afternoon the ministry announced a further nine cases (seven Bahrainis and two Saudis, all arriving from Iran via the UAE). Six more cases were announced on Tuesday evening, bringing the total to 23. An unspecified number of others have been placed in quarantine. Bahrain has now suspended flights from Dubai and says this will continue for 48 hours.

Egypt: On February 14 the Ministry of Health announced one “confirmed” case involving a non-Egyptian. This was contradicted on 19 February when the ministry said the person had tested negative.

Iraq: Ministry of Health announced four new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to five. The four — all all in Kirkuk and all members of the same family — had recently returned from Iran. The first case, involving an Iranian student in Najaf, was reported on Monday. Border crossings with Iran have been closed and flights suspended.

Israel: Ministry of Health announced on Friday that one of 11 Israelis who had flown home after being quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan had tested positive. A second case, from the same ship, was reported on Sunday.

Kuwait: Ministry of Health announced three new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total to eight. The latest three are said to have come from Iran and have been placed in quarantine. One of them is a Saudi citizen. Kuwait has suspended all flights to and from South Korea, Thailand, Italy and Iraq.

Lebanon: Health minister confirmed on Friday that a woman who arrived the previous day on a flight from the Iranian city of Qom had the virus. She was taken directly to hospital and quarantined after showing symptoms on the plane. Two others from the same flight are being monitored and all other passengers have been asked to stay at home for 14 days.

Oman: The first two cases were reported by the Health Ministry on Monday: two Omani women returning from Iran. Both are said to be stable and in quarantine. Two more cases (again linked to travel to Iran) were reported on Tuesday, bringing the total to four. Aviation authorities say flights to Iran are suspended until further notice.

UAE: Ministry of Health has reported 13 confirmed cases (three are said to have fully recovered). The most recent new cases, reported on Friday, involve a Filipino and a Bangladeshi, both of who had close contact with a Chinese citizen who was previously diagnosed. The civil aviation authority announced on Tuesday that all passenger and cargo flights to and from Iran are suspended for at least one next week. Emiratis have also been told not to travel to Iran or Thailand until further notice.

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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