Coronavirus: UAE has no plans to cancel public events or close schools

Experts say the Middle East is developing into a new battleground for the illness, with Iran posing a particular concern

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The UAE has no plans to cancel public events or close schools, businesses or institutions due to the coronavirus, an official from the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said.

Speaking to Reuters, the official said the UAE was “well prepared and equipped” for the “worst-case scenario” as the virus continued to gain a foothold in the region, with new cases reported daily.

The official said the UAE was closely monitoring the spread of the virus in other countries and relevant institutions had been instructed to undertake “complete surveillance” of people entering the UAE.

All necessary steps are being taken to ensure cases are detected as early as possible and there are enough facilities available in the country to quarantine patients, the official said.

Experts said the Middle East was developing into a new battleground for the illness, with Iran posing a particular concern.

Several countries across the region reported their first cases of the virus on Monday. Most, if not all, can be traced back to Iran.

The infected people were religious travellers returning from the country.

According to official figures, Iran has 95 confirmed cases and 16 deaths, although this week a member of parliament for Qom, the worst-affected city in Iran, said the death toll stood at 50 in his city alone.

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The MP, Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, was quoted by the semi-official ILNA news agency as saying the 50 deaths dated as far back as February 13.

The first reported cases and deaths in Iran were only released on February 19.

The Iranian government has denied attempting to cover up the full extent of the outbreak.

Oman, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Bahrain all announced cases with links to Iran this week.

Bahrain, which had only two cases on Monday, now has 23 confirmed Covid-19 patients.

The first case involved a school bus driver who fell ill days after returning from Iran.

Bahrain initially shut two schools and a nursery where the bus driver picked up children on Sunday, before extending the closure to all schools, nurseries, universities, training centres and community centres for two weeks from Wednesday.

Many of the patients travelled from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah, prompting Bahrain's civil aviation authority to suspend all flights arriving from the emirates for 48 hours early on Tuesday.

The UAE has since suspended all flights to Iran due to the outbreak of the virus in the country.