Dubai: The coronavirus continued to cause alarm in the Middle East with new deaths and infections reported across the region, and with countries taking a raft of measures to control the spread of the highly contagious disease.
Iran's Health Ministry said Saturday the death toll from the virus climbed to 145 while more than 1,000 infections were confirmed overnight totaling some 5,823 cases nationwide.
Iran earlier warned it may use “force” to limit travel between cities. Experts, however, belied both the number of deaths and infections are significantly higher than is being reported by the Iranian authorities.
31 provinces affected in Iran
The virus has now spread to all of Iran’s 31 provinces. Some 21 new deaths were reported Saturday by the ministry's spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour.
He said there were 16,000 cases are hospitalized across the country, with some still being tested or monitored to see if they had contracted the virus.
Iran cancelled Friday prayers in major cities whereas its neighbour Iraq cancelled them in Karbala.
This came as Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday that it will be temporarily restricting the entry of UAE, Kuwaiti and Bahraini nationals into the country.
Citizens of these three countries will only be permitted entry through the Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam airports. Entry through land ports between the Kingdom and the three Gulf states will be confined to commercial trucks only.
Kuwait 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. It also postponed its parliamentary sessions. The Kuwaiti prime minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah will undergo testing for the new coronavirus.
Qatar on Saturday reported its 12th case of the disease.
From Mecca to occupied Jerusalem, Muslims in the region Friday prayers under the shadow of the virus. In the UAE, prayers where shortened to 10 minutes, while in other countries, too, they were subdued.
Friday prayers at Mecca’s Grand Mosque normally attract hundreds of thousands of worshippers, while this week only tens of thousands attended, AFP reported.
The imam prayed for an end to the epidemic during his sermon, while praising Saudi Arabia’s decision to suspend the year-round umrah pilgrimage over fears of the new coronavirus.
“God, I seek refuge in you from the calamity and the epidemic,” said Sheikh Abdullah Awad Al Juhani.
Meanwhile, Fifteen American tourists were quarantined in a hotel in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem as part of precautions against the coronavirus, a Palestinian government spokesman said on Saturday.
Saudi Arabia detects new numbers
Two new coronavirus cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia. The two patients were coming from Iran and Najaf.
Meanwhile, 19 new coronavirus cases were detected in Bahrain, taking the total to 79. So far, six have recovered from Covid-19.
The Lebanese Ministry of Health has announced six new infections taking the total to 28.
- With inputs from agencies