Travel hub UAE to halt flights as virus reaches Gaza, Syria

Travel hub UAE to halt flights as virus reaches Gaza, Syria


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates, home to the world's busiest international airport, announced early on Monday that it was suspending all passenger and transit flights for two weeks to stymie the spread of the new coronavirus.

The announcement came a day after the first cases were reported in the Gaza Strip and Syria, where years of conflict have severely degraded the local health care infrastructure. The new cases also raised fears about other vulnerable areas, like war-torn Libya and Yemen.

Dubai's airport is a vital hub connecting Western nations with countries in Asia and Australia, and suspending transit flights there affects travelers around the world.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, announced that an evening curfew would go into effect starting Monday from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. for three weeks.

Countries across the Middle East have ramped up restrictions on daily life in an effort to contain the global pandemic.

Most people only experience mild symptoms from the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus and recover within weeks. But it is highly contagious and causes severe illness in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. People can carry and spread the virus without showing any symptoms.

More than 331,000 people have been infected worldwide, and more than 14,400 have died. Nearly 100,000 people have recovered.

There are around 26,800 cases of the virus confirmed in the Middle East, but more than 21,000 of those cases are in Iran and many others are linked to travelers from Iran, which has reported nearly 1,700 fatalities.

The UAE's emergency and crisis management body and its Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that the decision to stop all commercial flights, including even transit flights, would...

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