The first cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been confirmed in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Lebanon in the past few days. All five confirmed cases caught the virus while in Iran, carrying it back to their respective home countries.
As of Feb. 24, there have been 409 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 151 new deaths in China, bringing the total confirmed cases to 77,345 and the cumulative death toll to 2,593. Worldwide, nearly 80,000 people have been infected.
The numbers are staggering in Iran, where according to semi-official ILNA news agency, 50 people have died in Qom, a Shia holy city of around 900,000 people located 120 km south of the capital Tehran. The city appears to be the "focal point of the cluster."
"The rest of the media have not published this figure, but we prefer not to censor what concerns the coronavirus because people's lives are in danger," Fatemeh Madiani, a news agency editor, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Iran's Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi has been accused of covering up official figures after he claimed during a news conference on state television that 12 people have died and up to 66 have been infected.
Bahrain and Kuwait assure their citizens they are taking all necessary precautions after their first cases have been announced
In Bahrain, the patient who tested positive for coronavirus was transferred to the Ebrahim Khalil Kanoo Medical Centre for "immediate testing, treatment and isolation under the supervision of a specialised medical team," according to the health ministry. The ministry assured its citizens they were taking all preventive measures in alignment with the guidelines set by the World Health Organizations (WHO), which include monitoring all individuals returning from infected countries for a period of 14 days.
In Kuwait, three people have been infected with the virus after arriving from Mashhad, Iran, a Muslim pilgrim site, according to Kuwait news agency KUNA. They have been identified as a 53-year-old Kuwaiti citizen, a 61-year-old Saudi Arabian citizen, and a 21-year-old of an undisclosed origin who is the only one showing symptoms of the virus. All three are currently quarantined until they fully recover.
The Saudi health ministry announced on Twitter that they are collaborating with Kuwaiti authorities on the situation of the Saudi national, who will remain in Kuwait until full recovery.
Iraq's health ministry also announced on Monday the first case of coronavirus in the city of Najaf, after an Iranian theology student tested positive.
Meanwhile, nine countries have closed their borders with Iran while others have halted air transport.
In Lebanon, people are urging their government to halt flights arriving from Iran
Lebanon confirmed its first coronavirus case on Friday, a 45-year-old woman who returned to Lebanon from Qom. The woman is reportedly currently quarantined at Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan said another two suspected cases are being monitored and are currently self-quarantined at their homes. He added that all other passengers on the plane were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days; they would only be tested and quarantined at hospitals if symptoms appear.
The Lebanese took to Twitter to demand their country halt flights arriving from Iran to Beirut, but Hassan insists Iranian authorities are taking all necessary measures.
Annahar newspaper reported on Monday that Lebanese authorities have reduced flights to all infected countries including Italy, Iran, China, and South Korea. Flights regarding education, medical, or work purposes are an exception and will go through.
Hassan Shahein, a man who arrived in Beirut from Iran on Monday morning, shared an update on his arrival, detailing that "they [Lebanese authorities] took our names and numbers, temperature, and asked if we're feeling anything, and said goodbye." The man was referring to the country's inadequacy when it comes to such matters.