Middle East countries report more cases of coronavirus

Egyptians who are traveling abroad in the next 24 hours gather to get a coronavirus test, in front of the Central Public Health Laboratories, in Cairo, on Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Middle East countries report more cases of coronavirus

  • Motor racing-Bahrain F1 race to be held without fans due to the spreading scourge

DUBAI, BEIRUT: Several Gulf Arab states recorded new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday as 6,900 confirmed cases of the new virus were reported across the region.

Iran has emerged as a center for the disease in the Middle East. It says the new coronavirus has killed 49 more people in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 194 amid 6,566 confirmed
cases in the Islamic republic, according to Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave the figures at a news conference Sunday.
In neighboring Kuwait, the Health Ministry reported two more infections, raising the total to 64. Qatari authorities announced three more cases to bring the total to 15.
Kuwait’s central bank said on Sunday it was setting up a 10 million dinar ($32.79 million) fund to support state efforts to fight the virus.
Gulf states have canceled or postponed conferences, sporting events and concerts due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Bahrain
The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix will go ahead on March 22 without fans due to the coronavirus crisis, a blow to the Gulf Arab state’s important tourism sector.
Bahrain, which is hosting the second round of the Formula One season at the Sakhir circuit outside Manama, has reported 83 cases of the virus, mostly linked to people who had traveled to Iran.
“Bahrain has made the decision to hold this year’s (race) as a participants-only event,” organizers said on Sunday.
In the UAE, a Wizz Air press conference in Abu Dhabi, planned on Tuesday, has been canceled, organizers said.
Oman has canceled all events at the Royal Opera House in the capital Muscat that had been scheduled for March and April as well as tours of the site, state news agency ONA said on Sunday.
Syria
Aid agencies are moving to prevent the coronavirus outbreak in conflict-plagued northwestern Syria, where damaged health infrastructure and massive displacement make containment a nearly impossible task.
Syria has not yet confirmed any coronavirus cases but its “fragile health systems may not have the capacity to detect and respond” to an epidemic, Hedinn Halldorsson, a spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO), told AFP.
The risk of an outbreak is especially high and most alarming in Syria’s northwest, where some 3 million people are trapped in a shrinking rebel bastion battered by months of bombardment.

FASTFACT

The risk of an outbreak is especially high and most alarming in Syria’s northwest, where some 3 million people are trapped in a shrinking rebel bastion.

With close to 1 million people displaced since December by a Russian-backed regime offensive on the Idlib region, overcrowded settlements are teeming with
fresh arrivals, and many of the displaced are sleeping rough in freezing temperatures.
Medical facilities have been targeted during the latest bombing campaign, further reducing the capacity of a health system ravaged by nearly nine years of conflict.
Unable to provide services from government-held territory inside Syria, the WHO provides cross-border assistance to rebel-held Idlib via Turkey, Halldorsson said.
Health personnel are being trained, “and laboratories in both Idlib and Ankara are being prepared and stocked to safely test and diagnose the virus,” he added.
A Russian-Turkish cease-fire deal went into effect on Friday, bringing relative calm to Idlib for the first time in months. But many fear the fighting will eventually resume, in a further challenge to efforts to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.
Misty Buswell of the International Rescue Committee said the situation in Idlib was “especially ripe for a spread” of the virus.
“An outbreak would be devastating for thousands whose health status is already compromised due to lack of sufficient food, clean water and exposure to cold weather,” she told AFP.
Buswell said the IRC was focusing on “enhancing preventative measures” by raising awareness, providing medical supplies and strengthening disease surveillance and reporting systems.
“If an outbreak is reported, we will work with local health actors to activate a response,” Buswell said.
Mustafa Al-Abdo, the deputy head of Idlib’s opposition-run health department, appealed for the formation of an isolated medical center that would be ready to receive cases.

He also called on aid agencies to equip health workers with testing kits, medical masks, gloves and other equipment for prevention.


Coronavirus crisis in Egypt has benefits

A man travels on a scooter past the closed El-Sayeda Zainab Mosque in Cairo. (Reuters)
Updated 31 March 2020

Coronavirus crisis in Egypt has benefits

  • The Central Bank of Egypt has directed all local banks to delay the collection of credit liabilities for six months without any rates or fines

CAIRO: People around the world are living in uncertain times as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread. Fatalities and infections are rising as cities and countries go into lockdown.
Egypt is under a partial lockdown, forcing people to stay, work and learn at home. Yet behind this massive change and a fear of the unknown, COVID-19 has brought advantages.
Ever since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi decided to close schools and universities for two weeks, starting on March 15, respect for the government has increased, especially on social media.
“Suddenly the government is laying down a series of preemptive actions to slow down the spread of the virus,” Mohamed Badr, 32, a Cairo resident, said. “They disregarded the economic impact and focused on the safety of the people which made us all proud.”
There have been diplomatic gains. China’s Ambassador to Cairo Liao Liqiang said that China and Egypt are partners and true friends, lauding Egypt’s support to Chinese efforts to combat the virus.
The Central Bank of Egypt has directed all local banks to delay the collection of credit liabilities for six months without any rates or fines.
The government’s order to shut down cafes and malls during curfew hours has led to a ban on the smoking of hookahs.
With fears over infections and with a dusk-to-dawn curfew in place, there is less consumption of unhealthy food.
There are fewer road accidents too. In 2018, there were 8,480 road accidents, according to the Bureau of Statistics. The number is expected to plunge this year due to the drop in vehicles on the road.

FASTFACT

Ever since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi decided to close schools and universities for two weeks, respect for the government has increased.

Working from home is the new normal. The culture of work from home is forcing its way in society as many learning technologies and cloud solutions are connecting homes and workplaces.
“When I used to invite people for a Zoom meeting they were surprised. Today, it’s a normal practice and many clients actually prefer this option,” a sales representative in Cairo said.
And with school and college students stuck at home, educational institutions have quickly taken up distance learning.
With millions of people now stuck in isolation, many are using the opportunity to get creative. Videos on social media show people developing hobbies, tricks, cooking skills and paintings.
Corporations are accelerating digital transformation. Several companies are racing to implement digital and cloud technologies to manage their businesses remotely. Several telco and financial institutions pushed their services online and through contact centers rather than branch visits.
Doctors are finally getting some credit. They have long called for better salaries and benefits but their requests have fallen on deaf ears. The virus has now brought some hope for a better package in the near future.
The environment is cleaner and less polluted. And now, everyone has more time to reflect.