Copy of Virus_Outbreak_Mideast_Iran_75806.jpg-71239-1583767700761
Nurses make a sign of heart with their fingers, in a ward dedicated for people infected with the new coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Gulf states brought in a raft of drastic measures to help stem the spread of the deadly coronavirus, with Saudi Arabia closing off air and sea travel to nine countries that have been impacted by the highly contagious disease. This means Oman is currently the only Gulf country the kingdom operates flights to and from.

Riyadh also went to the extent of saying that it will impose fines of up to 500,000 riyals on those who do not disclose their health-related information and travel details at the kingdom’s entry points. Another step the Saudis took was to ban cafes and restaurants from serving shisha, something Kuwait also did days earlier.

Meanwhile, Iran temporarily freed about 70,000 prisoners to combat the spread of the coronavirus in jails.

Tehran also said coronavirus had killed 43 more people, pushing the official death toll in the country to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases. However, speculation has been rife that the real toll in the country of deaths and infections is much higher. Earlier, there were reports that the representative of Iran’s health minister in the northern province of Gilan said that more than 200 people had died of coronavirus in that province alone.

There are over 7,640 confirmed cases of the virus across the region.

Qatar “temporarily” banned entry of people coming from 14 countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nepal, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria and Thailand. The tiny Gulf state also announced it would shut down schools and universities beginning Tuesday until further notice. The number of cases in Qatar rose by three, to a total of 18. In Lebanon, eight new cases were reported, bringing the total to 41 whereas six new cases in Palestine brought the tally to 28. Tunisia also reported three cases.

Egypt recorded its first fatality – a German tourist who succumbed to the infection – as Kuwait flew home 300 nationals from the country. Egypt strengthened measures in the tourist city of Luxor to prevent the spread of the disease. Guests at Luxor hotels in Egypt won’t be allowed to leave until they undergo a medical exam, Al Arabiya reported.