Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia imposes travel restrictions as death toll rises in Iran

Saudi Arabia closed off air and sea travel to nine countries affected by the new coronavirus Monday as Mideast stock markets tumbled over fears about the widening outbreak’s effect on the global economy.

The state oil giant Saudi Aramco led the financial losses, dropping by 10 per cent on Riyadh’s Tadawul stock exchange and forcing a halt to Aramco’s trading.

In the Mideast, there have been over 7,600 confirmed cases, with the vast majority in hard-hit Iran. The country’s health ministry said the new coronavirus has killed another 43 people, pushing death toll to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases. Experts worry Iran may be underreporting its cases.

The drop came as global oil prices suffered their worst losses since the start of the 1991 Gulf War. Other Mideast markets fell as well as the new coronavirus has affected global energy prices and OPEC failed to make a production cut deal with Russia last week.

Earlier Monday, coronavirus concerns led Saudi Arabia to cut off air and sea travel with Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The kingdom had earlier closed off its land borders as well.

“Out of concern to protect the health of citizens and residents and ensure their safety, the kingdom’s government decided to temporarily suspend the travel,” it said in a statement attributed to an unnamed Interior Ministry official.

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