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Saudi Arabia and Jordan confirm first cases of coronavirus

Women wearing protective masks walk along a street in the Iranian capital Tehran on February 24, 2020. - Iran's government vowed on February 24 to be transparent after being accused of covering up the deadliest coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak outside China as it dismissed claims the toll could be as high as 50. The authorities in the Islamic republic have come under mounting public pressure since it took days for them to admit to "accidentally" shooting down a Ukrainian airliner last month, killing 176 people. Iran has been scrambling to contain the outbreak since it announced the first two deaths in the holy city of Qom on February 19. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
Women wearing protective masks walk along a street in the Iranian capital Tehran on 24 February 2020 [ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia and Jordan have confirmed their first cases of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, as the virus continues to spread across the Middle East and Gulf.

It was, apparently, a Saudi national traveling from Iran through Bahrain who carried the virus and is currently in an isolation ward in hospital, the Saudi Press Agency has reported. The Kingdom said on Sunday that it has prepared 25 hospitals to handle coronavirus cases.

"Within the framework of the ongoing precautionary measures," the Ministry of Health explained, "we sent an infection control team immediately to examine the citizen, and to take a sample for a laboratory examination. The sample confirmed that he was infected with the virus."

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Jordan said that its first coronavirus patient is a man who had flown in from Italy. The health authorities in the Hashemite Kingdom said that they will screen all those who were in contact with the patient.

In Iran, 300,000 soldiers and volunteers have been deployed to assist health officials in combating the biggest infection cluster outside China where the virus originated in December. State television quoted an MP saying that 23 members of parliament have tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to the BBC Persian service, the MPs may have been infected from contact with their constituents across the country. The UN sent six medical experts to Iran yesterday to assist the Islamic Republic in its struggle during the epidemic.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has updated the global risk level to "very high", while the EU has raised its own risk level to the second highest possible. According to the WHO, coronavirus has infected over 89,000 people and claimed 3,044 lives worldwide to date.

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