Tags: Virus | Outbreak | Mideast

Egypt Says Cruise Ship Quarantined over New Virus Cluster

Egypt Says Cruise Ship Quarantined over New Virus Cluster

Saturday, 07 March 2020 06:37 AM

LUXOR, Egypt (AP) — A cruise ship on Egypt's Nile River with over 150 tourists and local crew was in quarantine Saturday in the southern city of Luxor, after 12 people tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A Taiwanese-American tourist who had previously been on the same ship tested positive when she returned to Taiwan. The World Health Organization informed Egyptian authorities, who tested everyone currently on the ship.

Health authorities in Egypt released a statement Friday saying they'd found a dozen Egyptian crew members on the ship had contracted the fast-spreading virus, but did not show symptoms.

The statement said the 12 will be transferred to isolation in a hospital on Egypt's north coast. The passengers — who include Americans, French and other nationalities — and crew will remain quarantined on the ship awaiting further test results.

This brought the total number of cases in Egypt to 15. It came just days after three people were diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S. state of Texas. Officials in the city of Houston said Thursday that they believe the three were exposed to the virus while on a trip to Egypt in late February.

It was not immediately clear if the Texan tourists were on the same boat where the cluster occurred, how long the passengers on the ship had been quarantined, nor where exactly the initial Taiwanese tourist had contracted the virus.

Egyptian authorities have been tight-lipped about the virus outbreak, previously reporting only three confirmed cases. That's even as the wider Mideast now has over 5,000 confirmed cases, the vast majority in Iran.

The previous two cases in Egypt were a Chinese and a Canadian national, then an Egyptian who was in Serbia and had stayed for 12 hours in France before arriving in Cairo. Egyptian authorities said Friday that they have tested over 2,500 people who were found not to have the virus, including foreign nationals.

The new and fast-spreading coronavirus could deliver a major below to Egypt’s tourism industry. The government has been struggling for years to revive the vital sector following the country's 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

Other countries around the world have closed schools and universities, while also cancelling major art, sporting and business events.

Egypt does not appear to have taken any of these types of measures, and Friday's discovery of the 12 cases coincided with the opening day of the Luxor African Film Festival.

The country's national air carrier, Egypt Air, has suspended direct flights to China since late January. The virus, which originated in China, has infected more than 100,000 people globally.

In hard-hit Iran, a 55-year-old newly elected lawmaker died after contracting the virus, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday. Fatemeh Rahabar was recently elected in the capital of Tehran for the next parliament that begins working in May. Earlier this week, Iranian lawmaker Abdolreza Mesri told state television that 23 members in the current parliament had the coronavirus, and he urged all lawmakers to avoid the public.

Also on Saturday, Tehran's mosques authority banned any collective prayer and religious ceremony in Tehran mosques. However they will remain open to public for individual prayers.

Elsewhere in the region, the United Arab Emirates reported 15 additional coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 45.

The UAE is a major tourist destination and most of its residents are foreigners. The emirate of Dubai is also home to the world's busiest airport for international travel. Authorities have urged residents and citizens not to take unnecessary trips abroad, and to expect screenings and possible quarantines upon return.

To stymie the spread of the virus, the UAE has suspended schools, nurseries and universities for a month. It has also stopped flights to Iran and limited flights to China.

The UAE's Health Ministry said 13 of the new cases had recently arrived from abroad, and they include three Emirati citizens, two Saudis, two Ethiopians and two Iranians, as well as a person each from Thailand, China, Morocco and India. The statement gave no further details on where the travelers had come, when they had arrived to the UAE and which ports of entry they had come in from.

The other two cases, an Emirati and an Egyptian, were diagnosed after being monitored in connection with a cycling tour in the country that was halted a week ago after two Italians were first confirmed as having the virus.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, announced there would be no spectators for sports competitions and games starting Saturday in order to combat the spread of the virus. The kingdom has five confirmed cases, but has taken unprecedented measures against the virus' spread, including halting all pilgrimage in Mecca, Islam's holiest site.

The virus, which originated in China, has infected more than 100,000 people globally.

Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


   
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A cruise ship on Egypt's Nile River with over 150 tourists and local crew was in quarantine Saturday in the southern city of Luxor, after 12 people tested positive for the new coronavirus.A Taiwanese-American tourist who had previously been on the same ship tested positive...
Virus,Outbreak,Mideast
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2020-37-07
Saturday, 07 March 2020 06:37 AM
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