Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia records first death as GCC tightens rules on isolation

The case was an Afghani national, the Health Ministry said, as infections across Arabian Gulf states rise sharply

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Saudi Arabia announced it’s first coronavirus death on Tuesday, a 52-year Afghani national who died this week.

The number of recorded cases in the world’s top oil exporter reached 767, an increase of 250 in the last 48 hours, official figures showed.

Mohamman Al Abdaali, a Health Ministry spokesman said the cases continue to constitute a mix of those who had arrived from abroad and others who kept near patients known to have been inflicted, despite government warnings to stay away.

A three-week curfew from 7pm to 6am started across the kingdom on Monday. Saudi officials said the curfew was being generally observed and that while the supply chain is functioning, demand for food has increased.

“We are seeing medium to high traffic at supermarkets,” a Trade Ministry official told a press briefing in Riyadh.

Police in the north-western Al Hail governorate said on Tuesday security forces have apprehended a woman in her 40s who announced on social media that she will not abide by the curfew.

“She insisted not to follow the curfew orders and boasted about it,” a police statement said.

King Salman last week instructed officials to curb the spread of the virus, and the Defence Ministry deployed mobile clinics in the cities.

Official recorded cases in the Gulf area neared 2,000 infections and several deaths from the virus have been recorded.

The UAE announced 50 new cases on Tuesday, raising the toll to 249. The government this week urged all residents to stay in their homes unless "absolutely necessary" and started closing malls and markets.

Stores selling essential goods including supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open. All inbound, outbound and transit flights to the UAE is being also suspended.

Bahrain said a 65-year-old citizen had died. In Kuwait there were two new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 191. The two individuals had recently travelled to the UK.

The Kuwaiti government earlier this week ordered non-essential workplaces to close for two weeks.

Kuwait’s Minister of Health Dr Bassel Al Sabah announced Tuesday that nine people had recovered from the virus, bringing the totaly number of recoveries to 39.

All eight men and one woman whose recovery was announced Tuesday were Kuwaiti.

Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor and Health Ministry met on Tuesday to discuss way to help those isolating and detect suspected cases. They also discussed options for closing public outlets and reducing gatherings.

Eighteen new cases were recorded in Oman, which imposed on Tuesday a flight ban. The government will ban all passenger fights to counter the coronavirus starting on Sunday, the government said.

Cargo planes will continue flying, the official news agency said. Official figures show total cases in Oman at 84.

Authorities across the rest of the Gulf are stressing the need to take safety guidelines seriously. Oman, Kuwait and the UAE have made arrests of those spreading false news or encouraging people to break lockdown procedures.

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