Dubai (AFP) – Kuwait and Bahrain confirmed on Monday their first novel coronavirus cases, health ministries in the two Gulf states announced, adding all had come from Iran.
Kuwait reported three infections and Bahrain one.
“Tests conducted on those coming from the Iranian holy city of Mashhad showed there were three confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19),” the Kuwaiti health ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter.
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.
Bahrain’s health ministry also reported the country’s first COVID-19 case on Monday 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.
Iran’s confirmed death toll rose to 12 on Monday, with the outbreak prompting travel bans from nearby countries.
Last week, Kuwait banned entry of all ships from the Islamic republic and suspended flights to and from the country.
Kuwait had also banned non-citizens coming from Iran from entering the Gulf state and operated chartered flights to bring back hundreds of Kuwaiti Shiite pilgrims from the Islamic republic.
Around a third of Kuwait’s 1.4 million citizens are Shiite Muslims, who travel regularly to Iran to visit religious shrines. Kuwait also hosts roughly 50,000 Iranian workers.
Over half of Bahrain’s population of under one million are Shiites, who also travel frequently to Iran.
Iraq said it closed the only border crossing with Kuwait at Safwan, south of Basra, late Sunday.
Neighbouring United Arab Emirates has already announced 13 cases of the novel coronavirus, all of them foreigners. The latest were a 70-year-old Iranian man, whose condition is unstable, and his 64-year-old wife.
Three Chinese nationals were treated for COVID-19 and have been discharged from UAE hospitals.
UAE airlines have suspended most flights to China — where the virus first emerged in December — except to the capital Beijing, but have not yet taken any measures to restrict travel to and from Iran. Around half a million Iranians live and work in the UAE.
Three Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar — remain free of the virus, but all have suspended flights to China.
Qatar Airways said on Monday it will quarantine people arriving from Iran and South Korea, the biggest hotspot outside of China, for 14 days.
China’s death toll from COVID-19 rose to nearly 2,600 on Monday. The virus has spread to more than 25 countries and is causing mounting alarm due to new outbreaks in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.