Tehran/Cairo, 9 March 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Egypt registered its first death from the coronavirus on Sunday, the same day that Iran announced 49 new virus fatalities and Middle Eastern countries imposed travel restrictions to slow the spread of the virus in the region.
Egyptian Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said the country’s first fatality was a 60-year-old German man who had a high temperature when he arrived in Hurghada on Friday from the city of Luxor.
The man went to a hospital in Hurghada that evening and tested positive for the coronavirus. He was placed in intensive care, as he was suffering from respiratory failure caused by an acute pneumonia, the spokesman said. The man refused to be moved to another hospital for quarantine; his condition deteriorated, and he died on Sunday.
Egypt has 48 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 45 infected passengers on a Nile cruise ship in southern Egypt.
In Iran, 49 new fatalities were registered, taking the death toll there to 194 as the virus continued to spread throughout the Middle East.
As many as 6,566 people are infected in Iran, a jump of 743 compared to the previous day, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on Sunday.
Some 1,800 people have the virus in the capital Tehran alone.
The spokesman urged Iranians not to travel to the provinces and to stay home to avoid unleashing a new wave of infections.
His warning came as millions of Iranians plan trips to the provinces to celebrate Persian new year.
Police have set up road blocks on motorways and main roads to almost all of the country’s provinces. People can still travel to Tehran, however.
Jahanpur added that 2,134 patients have recovered from the virus and been released from hospital.
Although Iran’s authorities are trying to avoid using the word, these measures are in effect a quarantine.
Also on Sunday, Iranian state airline Iran Air suspended flights to Europe, a spokeswoman for the country’s civil aviation authorities said, according to a report on state-run news agency IRNA.
“For reasons unknown to us, European countries have limited Iran Air flights and so we have suspended all flights until further notice,” the spokeswoman said.
She added that Iran Air is carrying out negotiations in order to lift the restrictions on its flights.
Most coronavirus cases reported in the Gulf countries have been linked to trips to Iran, an epicentre of the disease outside China.
Saudi Arabia on Sunday announced a lockdown in the eastern province of Qatif where all the cases of the coronavirus in the kingdom are located, according to a security official.
“It has been decided to temporarily suspend entry and departure from the province of Qatif,” an unnamed official at the Interior Ministry said, according to Saudi state news agency SPA.
The precautionary measures include suspending work at all governmental and private institutions in the region, to prevent the virus from spreading further, the official added.
However, facilities offering basic services such as health institutions and petrol stations will continue to work in the mostly Shiite Muslim province.
Saudi authorities on Sunday reported four new cases, raising the total number of confirmed infections to 11, most of which are associated with travel to Iran.
Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia imposed the overnight closure of the Grand Mosque in the city of Mecca and the Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque in Medina – Islam’s holiest sites.
The oil-rich kingdom also halted Umrah pilgrimage trips to Mecca in a rare step amid fears of an outbreak of the coronavirus.
In Kuwait, the overall number of confirmed infections rose to 64 after the Health Ministry reported three additional cases.
Fears of the virus have prompted Kuwait to close educational institutions and restrict travel to other countries.
In neighbouring Iraq, the Health Ministry reported on Sunday two new deaths from the virus, raising the total number of fatalities to six.
Around the world, more than 100,000 people have contracted the new strain of coronavirus, which began spreading in the industrial hub of Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province, in December. Some 3,500 people have died.
Older people and those with underlying health issues are more vulnerable to the pneumonia-like illness, while others may be infected but show few or no symptoms.