Fears intensified after Baghdad, the second-most populous city in the Arab world, recorded the first case of Coronavirus, while countries in the Middle East stepped up to fight the epidemic.
Iraq announced its first case in Baghdad on February 27, bringing the number of Covid-19 cases in the country to six and raising concerns about the ability of the health system to respond there.
The Iraqi government late on February 26 announced a series of measures to prevent the spread of the virus, demanding that schools be closed, including universities, cafes, cinemas and public places. other until March 7.
Iraq has also imposed a ban on travel to and from nine countries, including China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Kuwait and Bahrain, according to AFP.
Iraq has previously banned entry with foreigners from Iran, a neighboring country that is a major source of infection in the Middle East, as well as from China, where the disease first appeared in December last year.
The Iraqi Ministry of Health said the first case in Baghdad was a young man who had just returned from Iran. This person is being isolated in a hospital, in good health condition.
Baghdad is the second most populous city in the Arab world, after the Egyptian capital Cairo.
Iran, meanwhile, has emerged as a major hot spot for the disease, with 26 deaths in 245 cases – the highest death rate in the world. A number of neighboring countries have recorded a rapid increase in cases involving Iran.
Iraq as well as many countries in the region have close cultural and religious links with Iran. All six cases in Iraq have originated in Iran.
As of February 27, Kuwait had 43 cases, Bahrain had 33 and Oman recorded 4 cases. All three countries have large populations of Shiite Muslims, and they often visit Iran to visit places considered sacred by religion.
Kuwait said all 43 cases in the country were returnees from Iran. Kuwait canceled its two-day national celebrations on February 25 and 26, as well as canceled all sporting events.
The king of Qatar on February 26 ordered the evacuation of its citizens from Iran over fears of an epidemic.
At least 15 people in Bahrain, including six Saudi nationals, tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran, through Dubai and Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Bahrain has banned citizens from going to Iran and closed schools and kindergartens for two weeks.
The UAE also recorded 13 cases, all of which were foreigners, with at least two Iranians just visiting the country. The UAE has suspended passenger flights as well as cargo to and from Iran.
Saudi Arabia has not recorded any cases in the country, but in an unprecedented move, Riyadh announced a temporary suspension of visas for visiting Muslim relics in the country on a “umrah” pilgrimage. The Sunni Islamic Kingdom, which welcomes millions of pilgrims to the cities of Mecca and Medina each year, also suspends visas for people from countries with viral infections.