DUBAI, February 27 ------ The United Arab Emirates, a major air transit center, is ready for “worst case scenarios” as the coronavirus spreads in the Middle East and has the facilities to quarantine patients and screen new arrivals, a government official said on Wednesday. It was too early to ban public gatherings in the business, trade and tourism hub, the official from the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority added. Dubai is due to host the Expo 2020 world fair in October for six months.
The UAE has reported 13 cases of the new coronavirus since Jan. 28, three of whom have recovered. Three Gulf Arab states recorded their first new coronavirus cases this week, all in people coming from Iran, the UAE’s neighbor across the Gulf which on Tuesday reported a total of 16 virus-related deaths, the most outside China. “We are quite satisfied that we have taken all the necessary steps needed to preempt the spread of the virus at all levels, without pushing the country into a state of unwarranted panic,” the UAE official said.
Egyptian investment bank EFG Hermes said this week it had decided to cancel its annual One on One investment conference in Dubai, which was due to take place from March 2-5. “The spread of the virus over the past three days to multiple countries from which we expect guests has underscored the importance of guaranteeing the health and safety of all our employees, clients and guests,” the bank said in an email to clients.
The disease, which originated in China late last year, has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China. Bahrain said on Wednesday the total of people diagnosed with the virus had risen to 26, some of whom had traveled through the UAE. Bahrain has suspended flights to Dubai. Kuwait, which last week evacuated 700 people from Iran, has reported 11 cases and Oman four cases. Several Arab countries have suspended flights to Iran and other destinations and imposed shipping restrictions. Kuwait has barred foreign ships, except those carrying oil, from departing to or arriving from several countries, according to a Feb. 25 notice seen by Reuters.