Countries across the Middle East have begun recording more and more coronavirus cases, and scrambling for a response.

The outbreak of coronavirus – officially known as COVID-19 – originated in China in December, where it has reportedly killed more than 2,500 people.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in February that 80 percent of COVID-19 cases report only mild, flu-like symptoms, and just 2 percent of cases have resulted in death. While COVID-19 has a much lower death rate than epidemics of similar viruses such as SARS or MERS, it has spread far wider.

Middle East Eye takes a look at the countries it has appeared in, and their response:

Bahrain (17 cases)

Bahrain’s health ministry announced on 25 February that a total of 17 people have been infected with the coronavirus.

The ministry reported its first case of the coronavirus on 24 February after a “citizen arriving from Iran was suspected of having contracted the virus based on emerging symptoms”.

The patient was transferred to a medical centre for “immediate testing”, which proved positive for the infection, the ministry added.

Manama also banned its citizens from travelling to Iran because of the coronavirus.

Egypt (1 case)

The WHO confirmed on 19 February that a man identified a week earlier was recovering and no longer a carrier of the illness, but would remain in quarantine for the mandated 14 days.

Iran (61 cases, 16 dead)

Iran is the worst-hit country outside of China, with at least 16 people dead due to the coronavirus. Several countries in the region confirmed their first patients had all previously been in Iran.

The country’s deputy health minister, tasked with heading the country’s response, was also infected by the virus, a health ministry announcement confirmed on Tuesday 25 February.

Five of its seven neighbours have now closed their borders with the country: Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Armenia.

On 24 February, an Iranian MP accused the government of “lying” about the extent of the virus’s spread in Iran, claiming 50 people have been killed by it in the holy city of Qom alone.

Iraq (5 cases)

Iraq confirmed four new cases of the coronavirus on 25 February in an Iraqi family returning from Iran to the city of Kirkuk.

Baghdad reported its first case of the coronavirus on 24 February. Health officials said the patient was an Iranian theology student living in the southern city of Najaf.

All students studying at the same religious seminary were quarantined, while one of the city’s most important religious sites was temporarily closed to pilgrims while it was disinfected.

Israel (2 cases)

An Israeli woman tested positive for the virus after returning from a heavily affected cruise ship, Israel announced on 21 February.

The country later sent 180 South Korean tourists back home and closed travel to and from South Korea. According to Israeli media, the government is considering quarantining another 200 South Koreans at a military base.

Kuwait (3 cases)

The Kuwaiti health ministry reported its first cases of coronavirus on 24 February.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the ministry said: “Tests conducted on those coming from the Iranian holy city of Mashhad showed there were three confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19).”

It said the cases were of a 53-year-old Kuwaiti man, a 61-year-old Saudi citizen and a 21-year-old stateless Arab.

“All three cases are under constant observation by the health authority,” the ministry added.

Lebanon (1 case)

The first confirmed case in Lebanon involved a 45-year-old woman who had travelled from Iran and was quarantined.

She had arrived on a plane from the Iranian city of Qom, where authorities have said Iran’s outbreak started.

Oman (4 cases)

Oman reported two more cases of coronavirus from individuals who had just travelled to Iran, according to the country’s health ministry Twitter account.

The health ministry reported the first two cases of coronavirus infections in the country on 24 February, Oman TV said.

The two Omani women diagnosed with the illness had visited Iran, it said. They are in a stable condition.

Oman’s civil aviation authority has halted all flights between the sultanate and Iran.

UAE (13 cases)

The UAE banned all travel to Iran and Thailand over fears about the spread of the virus, state news agency WAM reported on 24 February.

It recorded the first of its 13 cases when four members of a Chinese family were diagnosed on 28 January.

Source: Middle East Eye


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