Saudi Arabia to screen travelers from China after virus outbreak

CAIRO (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia will start screening passengers arriving from China and take other preventive measures following the outbreak of the new coronavirus in China, the kingdom’s health ministry said on Wednesday.

Deaths from China’s new flu-like virus rose to 17 on Wednesday with more than 540 cases confirmed, increasing fears of spreading contagion from an infection suspected of originating from illegally traded wildlife.

The virus, which first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and can pass from person-to-person, has been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea, raising concerns about its spread through international air travel.

The United States reported its first case on Tuesday in an American who had traveled to Wuhan.

Saudi’s health ministry is coordinating with the country’s civil aviation regulator to evaluate passengers arriving on direct and indirect flights from China, it said on Twitter.

It also advised individuals traveling to affected cities to avoid markets and dead or live animals.

Bahrain’s health ministry also is coordinating with the country’s main airport to start pre-emptive measures there, state media reported on Wednesday.

The Bahrain News Agency report did not disclose what action had been taken but said the country had increased preventive measures to avert an outbreak.

There are no suspected cases in Bahrain, it said.

The United Arab Emirates, a major air transit hub, on Monday said its airports and ports were on standby to handle cases but did not say what specific action had been taken.

The United States, Australia and several other countries have introduced screening measures at major airports.

Reporting by Alaa Swilam; Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Bill Berkrot