Gulf states report new rise in coronavirus cases

DUBAI (Reuters) - The number of coronavirus cases in the United Arab Emirates has risen to 45 from 30, the Health Ministry said on Saturday, as other countries in the Gulf region also reported new infections.

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Kuwait recorded three new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its infection tally to 61, while Qatar reported its 12th case, the Health Ministries in the two nations said on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia reported two new cases on Saturday, a woman coming from Iran, via Bahrain, and another one from Iraq, via the UAE, bringing the total number of infection in the kingdom to seven, according to a statement from the Health Ministry.

The virus, which was first recorded in China in December, has spread across the Gulf and beyond. Most cases in the Gulf Arab states are among people who either traveled to Iran personally, or were infected by people who had visited the Islamic Republic.

The United Arab Emirates, a major air transit center, business and tourism hub, has advised citizens and residents against traveling abroad and all schools are closing for a month from Sunday.

Events across the country have also been canceled or postponed, while some sports, such as horse racing and soccer, are going ahead without any fans in attendance.

Saudi Arabia has closed it land borders with the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain, with an exception for commercial trucks, and is only permitting flights from those countries to three of its airports.

Dozens of Saudis have come forward after authorities called on Friday for people who had been in Iran during the last two weeks to inform officials, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday, citing the Health Ministry.

Members of Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite minority tend to keep their trips to Iran secret due to a bitter rivalry between the two countries. Sunni-led Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016.

The Saudi Press Agency said 95 Saudis have come forward to say they are currently in Iran, while 26 said they had returned from Iran. Another seven said they were in a third country after having visited Iran, SPA said.

Iran has reported one of the highest death tolls from the coronavirus outside China, with 145 deaths reported up until Saturday.

Kuwait has suspended flights to and from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Bangladesh, the Philippines, India and Sri Lanka for a week, and has banned the entry of foreigners who have been to those countries in the past two weeks.

Dubai-based Al-Arabiya TV cited Bahraini health officials saying on Saturday six new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Gulf state, bringing its total number of infections to 62.

Reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek and Nayera Abdallah; Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Alison Williams and Helen Popper