Kuwait will suspend all commercial flights leaving and arriving at Kuwait City International Airport starting on Friday to halt the spread of the coronavirus, while effectively shutting the Gulf state down for two weeks.
The government also gave employees a two-week holiday starting on Thursday until March 26.
“This decision does not include cargo aircraft and planes carrying Kuwaitis [evacuated from abroad],” a government spokesman said of the flight ban. “Gatherings in markets, cafes and health clubs will also be prohibited.”
The steps are the latest in a series of precautionary measures in the Gulf country that has recorded 72 confirmed coronavirus cases.
The health ministry said the new cases had been found in quarantine and not mixing with the public.
Bahrain earlier announced 77 new infections among citizens evacuated by plane from Iran, which has emerged as an epicentre for the virus in the Middle East.
A semiofficial news agency reported on Wednesday that Iran’s senior vice president and two other cabinet members had contracted the new coronavirus as the death toll in the Islamic Republic from the outbreak rose by 62 to 354.
The report by the Fars News Agency, believed to be close to Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, comes as President Hassan Rouhani took control of the country’s much-criticised response to the virus.
Authorities announced there were some 9,000 confirmed coronavirus cases across Iran, a nation with one of the highest numbers in the world.
The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the global outbreak a pandemic, with its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calling on countries to scale up their “emergency response mechanism” and “communicate with your people about the risks & how they can protect themselves”.
"I remind all countries that we are calling on you to (1):
-activate & scale up your emergency response mechanisms
-communicate with your people about the risks & how they can protect themselves
-find, isolate, test & treat every #COVID19 case & trace every contact"-@DrTedros
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 11, 2020
Officially known as COVID-19, the disease has spread to at least 114 countries and territories and killed more than 4,300 people globally, the vast majority in China where the virus first emerged in late December.
Outside China, Italy has the largest number of deaths.
The whole of Italy – a country of some 60 million people – was placed under quarantine as the government stepped up efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 631 people there and affected more than 10,000.