UAE halts Iran flights as Gulf reports new virus cases
Iranian sanitary workers disinfect Qom's Masumeh shrine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which reached Iran, where there were concerns the situation might be worse than officially acknowledged. AFP
The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday suspended all passenger and cargo flights to Iran in what it said was a precaution against the new coronavirus.
The move came as Gulf neighbours Kuwait and Bahrain announced nine new cases of COVID-19, all of them people returning from Iran. Over the past two days, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman have reported 18 cases of the novel coronavirus for people returning from pilgrimages to Iran.
The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority "suspended all passenger flights and cargo to and from Iran starting today and for one week," a statement carried by the official WAM news agency said, adding that the ban could be extended.
Bahrain's health ministry said six people -- two Bahrainis and four Saudi women -- returning to the kingdom from Iran via Dubai had tested positive for the deadly virus, raising the total cases to eight. Kuwait meanwhile reported three new cases among Kuwaiti men who had been under quarantine in the emirate after returning from Iran, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases there to eight.
And Oman reported Monday its first cases of coronavirus -- two Omani women who had returned from Iran. The three countries have large Shiite Muslim populations who frequently travel to Iran to visit holy shrines.
The Islamic republic announced on Tuesday three new deaths from the virus, raising the total number of fatalities there to 15 people. UAE has already announced 13 coronavirus cases, all foreigners, including an Iranian couple who had travelled from Iran.
Kuwait has cancelled celebrations for national holidays on Tuesday and Wednesday and also scrapped all sports events to counter the spread of the disease.