DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates is urging citizens and other residents to avoid traveling abroad because of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, state news agency WAM said on Thursday.
Authorities in the Gulf state may order medical checks on returning travelers and ask them to stay in isolation at home, WAM cited a health ministry statement as saying.
The UAE, which is closing schools and educational institutions for four weeks on March 8, said students and education workers would have to spend 14 days at home after returning from overseas.
The Gulf Arab state is a major hub for international air travel and its Dubai airport is one of the world’s busiest.
Dubai airport handled 86.4 million passengers last year, roughly 237,000 a day, most of whom were transiting.
The UAE has reported at least 27 coronavirus cases. On Wednesday, Dubai’s health authority said a student had contracted the virus from a parent who had traveled overseas.
Medical tests are already being conducted on passengers arriving from China, Italy, Lebanon, and Thailand at Dubai airport and entering the country, Emirates says on its website.
Transit passengers are not being tested but will have their temperature checked before boarding their connecting flight, Emirates added.
Passengers arriving and entering from Syria are also being tested, according to an internal Emirates staff email dated February 29 which mentions China, Italy and Lebanon but not Thailand.
The test is a nasal swab and temperature check, it says.
The latest move may add further pressure on the economy in the Gulf state as the coronavirus outbreak weighs on consumer confidence and business productivity.
Flights from the UAE to Iran, Bahrain and most of mainland China have been suspended because of the outbreak, which has also led to major events being canceled across the country.
Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli, Alexander Cornwell, Nafisa Eltahir and Maha El Dahan; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Alexander Smith
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