Saudi Arabia cuts off air, sea travel to nine countries over virus - GulfToday

Saudi Arabia cuts off air, sea travel to nine countries over virus


Children wear face masks as they sit in a baby cart as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, at Beirut international airport, Lebanon. Reuters

Saudi Arabia closed off air and sea travel to nine countries affected by the new coronavirus on Monday as Mideast stock markets tumbled over fears about the widening outbreak's effect on the global economy.

KhanaKaaba-750x450Muslim worshippers walk past pigeons after the noon prayers outside the Grand Mosque in the Holy City of Makkah. AP

In the Mideast, there have been over 7,600 confirmed cases, with the vast majority in hard-hit Iran. The country's health ministry said the new coronavirus has killed another 43 people, pushing death toll to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases. Experts worry Iran may be under reporting its cases.

Earlier on Monday, coronavirus concerns led Saudi Arabia to cut off air and sea travel with Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The kingdom had earlier closed off its land borders as well.


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"Out of concern to protect the health of citizens and residents and ensure their safety, the kingdom’s government decided to temporarily suspend the travel,” it said in a statement attributed to an unnamed Interior Ministry official.

Etihad-Airways750An Etihad Airways plane flies over an undisclosed location. File

Abu Dhabi's carrier Etihad, which operated 12 flights daily to Saudi Arabia, said three flights had been airborne at the time of the announcement. When those planes landed in Dammam, Jiddah and Riyadh, only Saudi citizens could disembark, with others having to return to Abu Dhabi, the airline said.

Saudi Arabia already shut down access to the holiest sites in Islam over concerns about the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes. The virus usually leaves people with only mild to moderate symptoms, but because it’s new, experts can’t say for sure how far it will ultimately spread and how much damage it will do, both in terms of health and the global economy.

LebanonVirus-750x450A student wearing protective face mask walks with her friend on a beach in Beirut. AFP 

In Iran, the judiciary's Mizan news agency said authorities had temporarily released some 70,000 prisoners over concerns about the virus spreading in the country's prisons, up from the 54,000 previously announced.

Bahrain, which has seen 109 confirmed cases, ordered government officials not to travel abroad for two weeks.

Worldwide, there are over 110,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus with more than 3,800 deaths attributed to it.

The new virus has caused major economic disruptions,

EgyptHosts-750x450An EGYPTAIR flight crew member wears a protective mask during service on the flight from Cairo to Luxor on Monday. Reuters

Meanwhile, authorities in Egypt’s southern tourist hub of Luxor announced the city would close to tourists on Monday until medical experts could examine all hotel guests and cruise ship passengers in the area. Two cruise ships on the Nile River have been quarantined there in recent days, after 45 people on board one of the ships tested positive for the coronavirus. There were no immediate details on the second ship.


Associated Press

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