Lebanon confirms first coronavirus case as death toll hits 4 in Iran

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Lebanon's Minister of Health Hamad Hasan and Iman Shantiki, WHO representative in Lebanon, attend a news conference, after the country's first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed, in Beirut on Feb. 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
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People wearing face masks walk outside Beirut's Rafik Hariri hospital, where Lebanon's first coronavirus case is being quarantined on Feb. 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
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Updated 22 February 2020

Lebanon confirms first coronavirus case as death toll hits 4 in Iran

  • Found in 45-year-old Lebanese woman who travelled from Qom in Iran
  • Kuwait Airways announced it would suspend all flights to Iran as Kuwaitis were advised not to travel to Qom

BEIRUT: New coronavirus cases surged across the Middle East on Friday, after a rapid spread in Iran, where authorities say the death toll from the virus has hit four, prompting alarm and travel bans. 

Since December, the SARS-like virus has killed more than 2,200 people in China, the epidemic’s epicenter.

In the Middle East, two elderly men in Iran were the first confirmed deaths from the virus, which has also spread to the UAE, Egypt, Israel and Lebanon.

 

Iran’s Health Ministry on Friday reported two more deaths among 13 new diagnosed cases of the COVID-19 virus, doubling the total number of deaths in the country.

Hours later, Lebanon confirmed the first case. “The plane that arrived from the Iranian city of Qom was carrying 150 passengers,” a source from the medical emergency team that was formed to deal with the case told Arab News. 

“Lebanon received a warning from its embassy in Tehran about a plane carrying potential coronavirus cases, coming from the region in which Iranian authorities have monitored several infections,” the source said.

“A medical team hurried to the plane, Mahan Air flight W5115, as soon as it landed in Beirut on Thursday night. Passengers were all tested, and as 45-year-old Souad Sakr showed symptoms, she was taken directly to isolation and provided with all the medical requirements.”

Israel on Friday also confirmed its first case in a citizen who flew home from Japan. 

Kuwait Airways announced it would suspend all flights to Iran. Kuwaitis were advised not to travel to Qom. 




Young women wearing protective masks walk outside Beirut's Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where a woman is treated for coronavirus, on Feb. 21, 2020. (AFP / JOSEPH EID)

The UAE said a Filipino and a Bangladeshi were infected with the virus, bringing to 11 the number of cases in the country. More cases monitored

The Lebanese team is monitoring two other potential cases. Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan told a press conference: “A floor in the government hospital in Beirut was allocated to receive any potential cases. There’s no need for excessive panic.

“The medical team is following up on passengers who were taken to their homes, and any person who shows symptoms will be taken to the hospital.

“People who arrived from Iran less than 14 days ago are asked to remain isolated until we make sure they haven’t been infected,” he added.

The COVID-19 outbreak first appeared in Iran on Wednesday.

Tehran has now confirmed a total of four deaths and 18 infections by the SARS-like virus, which first emerged in China in late December.

Thousands of Lebanese travel to Iran every year to visit Shiite holy sites in Qom and other cities.

(With AFP)

 


Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

Updated 25 May 2020

Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

  • Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile
  • Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara – Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians

ISTANBUL: Israeli airline El Al has resumed cargo flights twice weekly between Tel Aviv and Istanbul for the first time in 10 years — a sign that decade-long bilateral tensions might be easing.
A cargo flight landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to pick up humanitarian aid and protective equipment destined for US medical teams fighting COVID-19.
Burhanettin Duran, head of the Ankara-based think tank SETA, wrote that Turkey’s regional empowerment is “obliging Israel to search for normalization steps with Ankara.”
Dr. Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the cargo flight is a positive and visible development in bilateral relations that was probably approved by top government officials on both sides and required diplomatic efforts.
“However, the fact that this step takes place in parallel to a discussion about Israeli annexation in the West Bank, and to criticism of annexation by regional and international actors, might impact how it’s viewed in Turkey,” he told Arab News.
Goren said while the Israeli and Turkish governments continue to have significant policy differences, they should work to restore their relations to ambassadorial level, and to relaunch a strategic dialogue on regional developments of mutual interest.
“The forming of a new Israeli government, and the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as a new foreign minister, could be an opportunity to do so, and the cargo flight brings some positive momentum,” he added.
Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in May 2018 after the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile, as it also serves the latter’s strategic interests in weakening the Iranian presence in Syria.
But Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians. 
In a video message on Twitter, he said the issue of Jerusalem “is a red line for all Muslims worldwide.”
He added that Israel’s “new occupation and annexation project … disrespects Palestine’s sovereignty and international law.”
Ryan Bohl, Middle East analyst at geopolitical-risk firm Stratfor, told Arab News: “Turkey is trying to create economic ties with Israel because … Erdogan is finding the political ground changed, caused in part by demographic changes as young Turks are less incensed by the Palestinian issue, and in part by a general weariness among Turks about putting too much skin in the game to solve the Palestinian question,” 
Israel is expected to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank on July 1 under the terms of a coalition government agreement. Ankara has strongly criticized the plan.
Israeli and Turkish officials are rumored to have held talks behind closed doors to reach a deal on maritime borders and exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean. 
Israel’s Foreign Ministry recently said it was “proud of our diplomatic relations with Turkey.”
But Goren said it is currently unlikely that Israel will advance a maritime demarcation deal with Turkey as it would shake several regional balances at the same time.
“It will put in jeopardy, and run in contrast to, the important alliances in the eastern Mediterranean that Israel has fostered in recent years with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt,” he added.