UAE limits flights to Iran from Dubai over virus outbreak

The UAE is suspending flights to Iran over the coronavirus outbreak.

By Associated Press

Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, said Tuesday that the United Arab Emirates is limiting flights to Iran over the outbreak of the new coronavirus, just a day after it spread across multiple Mideast nations from the Islamic Republic.

The airport’s announcement came after Bahrain said it would suspend all flights from Dubai and Sharjah for 48 hours over the virus as an infected passenger transited Dubai to the island nation.

The airport said in a statement to The Associated Press that “all flights to and from the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the exception of Tehran, have been suspended until further notice.”

It added that “all passengers arriving on direct flights from Tehran will receive thermal screening at the airport.”

The Emirati government did not immediately acknowledge the ban and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bahrain counted its first case of the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness on Monday in a school bus driver who transited Dubai while coming from Iran. Later, it confirmed a second case, also a traveler from Iran via Dubai.

Officials at Sharjah’s airport could not be immediately reached.

Dubai has been screening passengers on incoming flights from China, where the outbreak began. Long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad are among the few international airlines still flying to Beijing. However, the outbreak in Iran only became public in recent days.

Iran’s government said Monday that 12 people had died nationwide from the new coronavirus, rejecting claims of a much higher death toll of 50 by a lawmaker from the city of Qom that has been at the epicenter of the virus in the country. The conflicting reports raised questions about the Iranian government’s transparency concerning the scale of the outbreak.

Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq and Oman also announced their first cases of the virus on Monday and connected them to travel with Iran.

The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, has reported 13 cases of the new virus. Most of those were connected to Chinese travel.

Meanwhile, Kuwait raised the number of its infected cases from three to five people. All five were passengers returning on a flight from the Iranian city of Mashhad, where Iran’s government has not yet announced a single case of the virus.

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The state-run Kuwait News Agency reported the two latest cases on Monday evening in two women whose nationalities were not disclosed. Kuwait had halted over the weekend transport links with Iran and was evacuating its citizens from Iran.

Also, Oman, which has good ties with Iran, has halted flights with its Persian Gulf neighbor. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the only two Gulf countries that still have direct flights to Iran.