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Dubai screens passengers from China amid virus outbreak

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Dubai (AFP)

Dubai Airport, one of the world's biggest aviation hubs, said Thursday it would carry out thermal screening of all passengers arriving from China amid an outbreak of a deadly virus.

The move goes further than other major transport hubs in Europe and the United States, which have limited their screening to passengers coming from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the scare.

"Dubai Airports confirms... that all passengers arriving on direct flights from the People's Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival," a statement said.

China has locked down two major cities including Wuhan to fight the coronavirus that has already claimed 17 lives and spread to a number of other countries.

Dubai's government said on Thursday that some 989,000 Chinese tourists visited the glitzy emirate last year and that the number was expected to cross the one-million mark in 2020. Some 3.6 million Chinese transited through the airport in 2019.

"The screening will be conducted on secured, closed gates at the airport by Dubai Health Authority and its Airport Medical Centre team," the statement said.

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Like SARS, it can be passed among people through the respiratory tract.

Dubai International Airport in 2018 served 89.15 million passengers, retaining its world-number-one spot of welcoming the largest number of foreign passengers for the fifth year in a row.

There was no announcement as yet from authorities in the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi which also has a large airport.

Dozens of flights operate weekly between Chinese cities and Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

China is the UAE's top trading partner and Abu Dhabi is among the 15 top crude suppliers to Beijing. Several hundred Chinese companies have offices in the UAE.

The United Arab Emirates' health ministry said Wednesday that the Gulf state with a population of 10 million -- about 90 percent of them foreigners -- was free of the coronavirus, and that it had taken sufficient measures to face the disease.

"The health situation poses no grounds for concern and the ministry is closely following up on the situation to ensure the health and safety of everyone," it said.

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