Coronavirus cases rise in Gulf

Number of coronavirus cases in Gulf countries rise as world continues to struggle with outbreak of disease that was first recorded in China.

DUBAI - 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.

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.

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 travelled to Iran personally, or were infected by people who had visited the Islamic Republic.

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

Events across the country have also been cancelled 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 Shiite 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 recently returned from Iran. Another seven said they are in a third country after having visited Iran, SPA said.

Iran has reported one of the highest death tolls from the coronavirus outside China. Iran's official death toll rose by 21 Saturday, with a lawmaker among the latest fatalities, while the government accused Washington of hampering Tehran's response to the virus by "maliciously tightening" sanctions.

"The world can no longer be silent as US Economic Terrorism is supplanted by its Medical Terrorism," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said that the 21 deaths took the country's total death toll to 145, while 1,076 additional cases had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 5,823.

"More than 16,000 people are currently hospitalised as suspect cases," Jahanpour said during a televised news conference.

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.

Meanwhile a cruise ship on Egypt's Nile River with over 150 tourists and local crew was in quarantine Saturday in the southern city of Luxor, after 12 people tested positive for the coronavirus.