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Middle East's first case of coronavirus diagnosed in the UAE

Health ministry says four members of family from Wuhan city in China diagnosed with disease
Travellers wear masks as they arrive at the Dubai International Airport, after the UAE's Ministry of Health and Community Prevention confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus (Reuters)

The first case in the Middle East of the new coronavirus has been diagnosed in the United Arab Emirates, according to the country's health ministry.

The ministry said on Wednesday that a family from China’s central city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began, had been been diagnosed with the disease while staying in the country.

The state news agency WAM said four members of the family were infected.

The virus originated in Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province, and has killed at least 132 people in China.

The UAE is a major air transport hub, with Dubai airport ranked the world’s third busiest and the hub of Emirates airline.

The Ministry of Health and the government communications office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The family members were in a stable condition and under medical observation, the ministry said in English and Arabic statements on Twitter. The statement did not say where the family was being treated.

The ministry said it was “working around the clock to immediately report any new cases”.

Travellers wear masks as they arrivw at the Dubai International Airport, after the UAE's Ministry of Health and Community Prevention confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus, in Dubai
Travellers wear masks as they arrive at the Dubai International Airport, after the UAE's Ministry of Health and Community Prevention confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus (Reuters)

Wuhan, with a population of 11 million, is racing to build two dedicated hospitals with 2,600 beds for victims, the official People’s Daily said.

About 60 cases, but no deaths, have been reported in 15 other countries, including the United States, France and Singapore. Airports around the world are screening passengers from China.

Fears of the spreading virus have already pushed airlines to reduce flights to China. Emirates said on Wednesday its flights were operating normally.

Turkey to bring citizens home 

On Wednesday, Turkey announced it would evacuate 32 citizens and their families from Wuhan.

Speaking to broadcaster NTV, Ambassador Emin Onen said Turkey had made the necessary applications to Chinese officials to evacuate the 32 citizens, adding that none of them had been diagnosed with the virus.

"We are in touch with all our citizens," Onen said.

"We will bring them back as soon as possible...with a medical or similarly equipped plane. There will be certain quarantine conditions when they land in Turkey."

The number of cases in China now exceeds the tally of 5,327 infected with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus that killed about 800 people globally in 2002 and 2003.

While some experts believe the new strain, known as "2019-nCoV", is not as deadly as SARS, alarm has grown over its rapid spread and many unknown attributes, such as how lethal it is.

Like other respiratory infections, it is spread by droplets from coughs and sneezes, with an incubation time between one and 14 days. There are signs it may also be able to spread before symptoms show.