The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has suspended all flights to and from Iran for at least a week over the outbreak of the new coronavirus after its spread was announced across multiple Middle East nations from the Islamic Republic.
The UAE, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, remains a key international transit route for Iran’s 80 million people.
The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority made the announcement on Tuesday via the country’s state-run WAM news agency, just hours after Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, said there would be restrictions on flights there.
“All passenger and cargo aircraft travelling to and from Iran will be suspended for a period of one week, and could be up for extension,” the authority said.
“The decision is a precautionary measure undertaken by the UAE to ensure strict monitoring and prevention of the spread of the new coronavirus.”
Emirates, the government-owned carrier based in Dubai, flies daily to Tehran. Its low-cost sister airline, FlyDubai, flies to multiple Iranian cities, as does the Sharjah-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia.
The announcement came after Bahrain said it would suspend all flights from Dubai and Sharjah, a neighbouring UAE emirate that is home to Air Arabia, for 48 hours.
Bahrain’s Ministry of Health on Tuesday raised the number of infected cases from the new virus to eight, saying all had travelled from Iran via Dubai. Four of them have been identified as Saudi nationals.
The cases were confirmed upon arrival to Bahrain during screenings at the airport, and prior to the suspension of flights to Dubai and Sharjah, according to Bahrain’s official news agency.
Dubai has been screening passengers on incoming flights from China, where the outbreak began in December.
Emirates and Etihad are among the few international airlines still flying to Beijing. However, the outbreak in Iran only became public in recent days.