Saudi Arabia denies case of coronavirus infection

FILE PHOTO: People wearing masks are pictured on the subway in Beijing, China January 21, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Lee

RIYADH (Reuters) - A Saudi health ministry affiliate said on Thursday there were no cases of coronavirus in the kingdom, denying earlier reports of an expatriate resident being infected.

Earlier, India’s minister of state for external affairs said an Indian nurse working at a hospital in southwestern Saudi Arabia has been infected by the coronavirus and was being treated, amid an outbreak that has killed 25 people in China.

But the Saudi Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a tweet that there were no cases of the novel coronavirus so far.

Another statement from the Saudi health ministry said that the case mentioned in the Indian minister’s tweet was related to an infection with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and was being dealt with.

“The ministry has taken all the precautionary measures to deal with this global issue and is in close coordination with all concerned entities,” the statement added.

The kingdom said on Wednesday it would start screening passengers arriving from China and take other preventive measures following the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

The virus, which can pass from person to person, has been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea, raising concerns about its spread through international air travel. More than 630 people have been infected, mostly in China, but cases have been detected as far away as the United States.

Elsewhere in the Gulf region, Qatar and Bahrain called on their citizens in China to exercise caution against the virus, the state news agency reported on Thursday.

Kuwait’s ministry of health said that thermal cameras were added to border crossings so passengers arriving from countries affected with coronavirus could be thermally screened, according to the state news agency.

Reporting by Marwa Rashad and Stephen Kalin; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Frances Kerry and Raju Gopalakrishnan