By Sam Bridge
Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship temporarily suspends travel using only the national identity cards of citizens of the UAE and other Gulf countries
The Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) has issued a decision to temporarily suspend travel using only the national identity cards of citizens of the UAE and other Gulf countries as cases of the new coronavirus soar.
The measure, which came into force at midnight on Thursday/Friday, is being taken as part of a series of precautions to counter the outbreak of the new coronavirus as six new cases were reported in the UAE. Oman also reported a new case, raising its total to six.
The move came as the UAE also announced the cancellation of the UAE Tour cycling race prior to stage six which was due to take place on Friday after two Italian cyclists tested positive for the virus.
Infections in Kuwait and Bahrain have soared in the past 48 hours while Saudi Arabia has suspended visas for visits to Islam's holiest sites for the "umrah" pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears that raises questions over the annual hajj.
In the UAE, the ICA highlighted in a statement carried by state news agency WAM the necessity of using valid passports.
The move aims to help monitor the movement of individuals to and from countries where the virus is present who could pose a threat to UAE citizens and residents.
"The UAE citizens residing abroad who left the country using their ID cards, as well as GCC citizens who entered the UAE prior to the decision are exempt," the ICA said, adding: "These procedures are temporary and subject to review and reassessment."
The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention on Thursday said two coronavirus patients in the UAE had recovered while six new cases have been confirmed. The announcement brings to 19 the number of reported cases, five of whom have been cured.
The six new cases include four Iranians, one Chinese and one Bahraini, all of whom had come to the UAE from Iran ahead of the travel ban enforced recently, said the ministry in a statement which added: "All the necessary precautions to ensure highly efficient preventive measures are being taken, including check-ups and observation of people in contact with patients. It's all done as per the guidelines and standards of the World Health Organisation."
Separately, the UAE's Federal Authority for Land and Maritime Transport has banned ferry services with Iran until further notice.
It said all commercial vessels coming into the country must present a statement of health condition for their crews 72 hours ahead of arrival.
Under the new measures, all UAE port authorities have to report to FTA any suspected coronavirus cases onboard the ships docking at the country's ports.Gulf countries have implemented a raft of measures, including flight suspensions and school closures, to curb the spread of the disease.
Even as the number of fresh coronavirus cases declines at the epicentre of the disease in China, there has been a sudden increase across the Middle East.
Since its outbreak, the UAE has reported 13 coronavirus cases, Kuwait has recorded 43, Bahrain has 33 and Oman is at four cases.
Iran has emerged as a major hotspot in the region, with 26 fatalities from 245 infections - the highest death toll outside China, where COVID-19 originated.
While no cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, one citizen is reported to be infected in Kuwait along with four Saudi women in Bahrain - all of whom had returned from Iran.travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.