Saudi Arabia on Monday confirmed its first case of coronavirus after one its citizens who had returned from COVID-19 hotspot Iran tested positive.
The health ministry said the man, tested after entering the country through Bahrain, had been “isolated in a hospital”.
Saudi Arabia is the last Arab state in the Gulf to report a confirmed case of COVID-19. Elsewhere in the Arab world, Jordan and Tunisia also confirmed their first cases on Monday.
Last week, Riyadh barred citizens from its Gulf neighbours from visiting Mecca and Medina.
It also suspended visas for the year-round mini-pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest places located in the west of the Sunni kingdom.
The unprecedented moves have left thousands of Muslim pilgrims in limbo, raising uncertainty over the annual hajj to Mecca scheduled for end of July.
The holy sites, which draw millions of pilgrims every year, are a potential source of contagion but also a pillar of political legitimacy for Saudi rulers and a key revenue earner.
Other Gulf countries have announced a raft of measures to cut links with Iran after infections among pilgrims returning from Shiite shrines in the Islamic republic.
Iran on Monday raised its coronavirus death toll to 66 — the highest outside China — with 1,501 confirmed cases.
The World Health Organization on Monday sent its first planeload of assistance to Iran aboard an Emirati military aircraft.
Meanwhile, the federal government is trying to trace most of the 155 passengers in the aircraft that brought to Nigeria the Italian confirmed with coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire made the disclosure yesterday while briefing newsmen in Abuja.
He said 156 passengers were on the manifest of the flight that brought the Italian.
Daily Trust reports that unlike what obtains in other countries, the name and other details of the Italian patient have not been made public yet.
The minister said some of the passengers on board the aircraft that brought the Italian were yet to be traced because of the ambiguity of the contact information they provided.
He said: “We cannot give a fixed figure on the contact tracing because it is a continuing process.”
“But the only one we know for sure is the 156 passengers who were on the aircraft with him (the Italian) and those ones are being tracked and we have been talking to them and we are getting cooperation.
“There have been a few challenges. Some people gave telephone numbers that didn’t work or (when called) said switched off. There are some who probably don’t have telephones or some who are new arrivals in Nigeria.
“They are not yet registered with any telephone company, but there are ways in which they can be found out. Some have probably left the country if they were to be here for a day or two,” he said.
Ehanire said that since the confirmation of the first case of the disease, the government had been focusing on containment including contact tracing to check further spread.
He said that as of yesterday, there was no new confirmed case recorded in Nigeria. “About 14 tests have been done and except that confirmed case, no other person has been confirmed with the disease,” he said.