Chinese family diagnosed with virus in UAE, first known cases in Middle East

Chinese family diagnosed with virus in UAE, first known cases in Middle East

General view of Dubai International Airport in Dubai
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Christopher Pike/File photo

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates announced Wednesday (Jan 29) its first cases of the new coronavirus, in a family from Wuhan, in what is thought to be the first confirmed cases in the Middle East.

"The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention announced a case of the new coronavirus affecting people from one family coming from the city of Wuhan in China," the state news agency WAM reported, without saying how many were infected.

"The health condition of those affected was stable and under medical monitoring," it cited the ministry as saying.

Later on Wednesday the ministry confirmed that four members of a family from China had been infected.

All of them are in stable condition and situation is "contained", said the statement, adding that it was "not a cause for concern".

Gulf airports, including Dubai which is home to one of the world's biggest aviation hubs, said last week they would screen all passengers arriving from China amid the outbreak of the deadly virus.

The disease has spread to more than 15 countries since it emerged out of Wuhan late last year, with the death toll soaring to 132 and confirmed infections nearing 6,000.

All confirmed fatalities have so far been in China. Confirmed cases have been reported across the Asia Pacific region and in North America and Europe, but the Wuhan family in the UAE appear to be the first in the Middle East.

Dubai's government said Thursday that some 989,000 Chinese tourists visited the glitzy emirate last year - a number expected to cross the one million mark in 2020.

About 3.6 million Chinese transited through the emirate's main airport in 2019.

MORE: Our coverage on the Wuhan virus and its developments

READ: Number infected by Wuhan virus rises to nearly 6,000 in China; death toll at 132

The UAE's Abu Dhabi International Airport, another major hub, has also begun screening passengers arriving from China.

Between them, the two Emirati hubs operate dozens of flights a week with Chinese cities.

China is the UAE's top trading partner and Abu Dhabi is among the 15 top crude oil suppliers to Beijing. Several hundred Chinese companies have offices in the UAE.

China's National Health Commission said on Wednesday the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in the country had risen to 132, with another 1,459 new cases confirmed.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China stands at 5,974, the authority said in a statement. 

The flu-like virus has spread overseas to more than a dozen countries. None of the confirmed deaths to date has been outside China. 

However, confirmations of person-to-person transmission in Germany, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan - as opposed to a traveller from China - has heightened concern.

Known as 2019-nCoV, the newly identified coronavirus can cause pneumonia and, like other respiratory infections, it spreads between people in droplets from coughs and sneezes.

The UAE health ministry said it has taken "all the necessary precautions" in line with standards approved by the World Health Organisation.

It said that the country's health system "works very efficiently and that the ministry is closely following the situation in a way that guarantees the health and safety of everyone."

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Source: Agencies/nc

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