Stock markets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) finished lower on Wednesday after the country reported confirmed cases of the new variant of the coronavirus.

The UAE has discovered a "limited number" of cases of people infected with the new coronavirus variant, the first confirmed cases of the more contagious version of the virus in the Gulf region. 

The UAE has kept its borders and international flights open, while neighbouring Saudi Arabia on Monday extended a ban on entry to the kingdom by air, land and sea for another week. 

The Dubai index shed 0.3%, its third fall in four sessions this week.

Dubai's largest listed developer Emaar Properties was down 0.8% and Damac Properties slid by 3.7%.

DXB Entertainments fell 4.4% for a seventh straight decline since state-backed property company Meraas revealed its intention to make a conditional offer to buy the remaining shares in the loss-making theme park group and take it private. 

Abu Dhabi's index slipped by 0.2%, its second successive loss, dragged down by a 1.2% fall for telecoms group Etisalat a 2.6% decline for National Bank of Umm Al Qaiwain.

In Saudi Arabia, the benchmark index firmed by 0.2%, driven by a 1.3% gain by top lender National Commercial Bank.

Qatar's main index advanced 0.3%, buoyed by a 0.6% gain in shares of the Gulf's biggest lender, Qatar National Bank.

Oil gained ground on the back of a weaker dollar, a decline in U.S. crude oil inventories and as Britain approved another coronavirus vaccine. 

The Bahrain index closed 1.4% down after losses in financial stocks. Alahli United fell 4.5% while Ithmaar Bank shed 2.8%.

Bahrain's central bank has asked banks and financing companies to extend loan repayments for six more months from January as it moves to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

(Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman ) ((; +91 (0)8061822683;))