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The UAE Halts All Flights to Iran Over Coronavirus Fears; Concern Authorities Are Downplaying Extent of Outbreak

The UAE Halts All Flights to Iran Over Coronavirus Fears; Concern Authorities Are Downplaying Extent of Outbreak

Dubai International Airport Passenger traffic up 9% in November 2016

The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) announced Tuesday it would suspend all flights between the United Arab Emirates and Iran for a period of at least one week stemming from concerns of possible spread of the COVID-19 novel Coronavirus. Iran has confirmed at least 15-deaths linked to the virus but was quick to deny allegations by one lawmaker that at least 50 people had died in the country after becoming infected.

The ban includes both passenger and cargo flights and came into effect immediately after being announced on Tuesday afternoon. The UAE’s health authorities stressed that the decision was a “precautionary measure undertaken by the UAE to ensure strict monitoring and prevention of the spread of the new coronavirus”.

Neighbouring Oman also announced it would implement a similar ban, with Oman Air immediately cancelling all if its services to Iran.

The decision comes a day after Bahrain temporarily banned flights from the UAE after a passenger with COVID-19 arrived in Manama on an Emirates flight from Tehran via Dubai. The 48-hour stoppage will ground eight Emirates flights per day and 17 daily services from Gulf Air.

The move to so quickly suspend flights to Iran is in stark contrast to the UAE’s decision to continue flying to mainland China where the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 cases have been identified. Both Emirates and Etihad Airways continue to operate flights to Beijing, although all other services to mainland China have been temproarily suspended.

The UAE has not announced any restrictions on flights to and from Italy where authorities are battling to contain an outbreak of the mystery virus in the north of the country. Kuwait has already suspended flights to Italy, as well as South Korea and Thailand over fears of the virus speading.

Meanwhile, Qatar said it would require all passengers arriving from South Korea and Iran to self-isolate themselves for a period of 14-days after arriving in the country. Anyone with fever or other symptoms ariving from these countries would be immediately quaruntined.

In other developments:

  • A Korean Air flight attendant has been diagnosed with COVID-19 – He recently took a trip on a religous pilgramage to Israel and operated a flight back from Los Angeles between the 19th and 20th February.
  • A Turkish Airlines flight from Iran made an emergency landing in Ankara on Tuesday over concern that a passenger was showing signs of the virus. All passengers and crew will be required to go into quaruntine for 14-days.
  • Singapore Airlines is said to have an excess of 500 cabin crew after cutting flights because of the outbreak. The airline recently announced further changes to its onboard service to limit contact between crew and passengers.
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