February 24, 2020 / 8:24 AM / a month ago

Three Gulf states, Iraq report first coronavirus cases, linked to Iran

DUBAI (Reuters) - Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Iraq on Monday recorded their first new coronavirus cases, all people who had been in Iran, which raised its toll from the disease to 12 dead and 61 infected.

Kuwaiti special forces wearing protective masks guard the entrance to a hotel, where people evacuated from Iran are being held in quarantine, in Fahaheel, Kuwait February 24, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

Oman’s health ministry said two Omani women were diagnosed with the virus after arriving from Iran, while the sultanate’s civil aviation authority said on Monday it had halted all flights to the Islamic Republic.

Iraq said the new coronavirus was detected in an Iranian theology student in Najaf, who entered the country before it banned the entry of non-Iraqis coming from Iran.

Kuwait recorded the virus in three people among 700 who had been evacuated on Saturday from the Iranian city of Mashhad. They were a 53-year-old Kuwaiti man, a 61-year-old Saudi man and a 21-year-old whose nationality was unclear.

In neighboring Bahrain, the health ministry said a Bahraini citizen who arrived from Iran had been diagnosed with the virus.

Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew on Monday after sharp rises in new cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea. The virus has infected nearly 77,000 people and killed over 2,500 in China.

Qatar Airways said on Monday it would ask passengers arriving from Iran and South Korea to remain in home isolation or a quarantine facility for 14 days. Qatar has not recorded any coronavirus cases.

The United Arab Emirates on Monday banned its citizens from traveling to Iran and Thailand due to concern over coronavirus, state news agency WAM said. The UAE, a major air transit center and tourism and business hub, has recorded 13 cases since Jan. 28; the latest two are an Iranian tourist and his wife.

Kuwait Airways and Iraq Airways last week suspended flights to Iran while Saudi Arabia suspended travel to Iran. Iraq has shut its Safwan border crossing with Kuwait to travelers and trade at Kuwait’s request.

Iran’s Deputy Health Minister, Iraj Harirchi, said 12 people had died and up to 61 had been infected in Iran. Most infections were in the Shi’ite holy city of Qom.

Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Nayera Abdallah, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Maher Chmaytelli in Dubai, Aref Mohammed in Basra and Ahmed Aboulenein in Baghdad, Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Editing by Ghaida Ghantous and Mark Heinrich

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