Coronavirus impact on Middle East grows

Coronavirus impact on Middle East grows
Iranian pedestrians walk while wearing protective masks in Tehran on March 10, 2020 amid the spread of coronavirus in the country. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 March 2020

Coronavirus impact on Middle East grows

Coronavirus impact on Middle East grows
  • Iran reports 63 new virus deaths, taking the total to 354
  • In Kuwait, three new cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours

DUBAI: As the Middle East continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, governments in the region and around the world have been taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Wednesday, March 11 (All times in GMT)

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21:25 - A high-profile four-team international football tournament in Doha this month has been canceled due to fears over the coronavirus outbreak, the Croatian Football Federation said on Wednesday.

Croatia were due to feature alongside Portugal, Belgium and Switzerland from March 26-30 in preparation for the Euro 2020 finals to be staged in 12 venues across Europe starting in June.

20:50 - Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte announced on Wednesday that his government was shutting all stores except pharmacies and food shops in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

19:45 - Saudi Arabia has called on people to avoid gatherings exceeding 50 people and to refrain from shaking hands with each other to prevent the spread of the virus.

The first recovery from the virus in the Kingdom was also announced on Wednesday, with the patient discharged from a hospital in Qatif.

18:03 - Iraqi semi-autonomous Kurdistan regions bans Kurdish Nowruz festivals due to coronavirus fears - statement.

17:25 - Saudi Arabia has closed cinemas in the Kingdom until further notice due to coronavirus fears. 

16:41 - Expressing increasing alarm about mounting infections, the World Health Organization declared Wednesday that the global coronavirus crisis is now a pandemic.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who heads the U.N. agency, said the WHO is “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity” of the outbreak. He also expressed concern about “the alarming levels of inaction.”

16:36 -  The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of a nationwide contagion, has risen over the past day to 617 from 468, two sources with access to the data said on Wednesday.
One of the sources said the number of new cases in the region, which includes Italy's financial capital Milan, had risen by 1,489 over the past 24 hours.




People line up at a grocery store in the town of Codogno, in the region of Lombardy, northern Italy, Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020. (AP)

16:12 - Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that all flights to Iran as well as China, South Korea and Italy are to stop.




Lebanese men wearing protective masks look at rosaries offered by a street vendor on a shopping street in the Lebanese capital Beirut, on Mar. 11, 2020, amid fears from the coronavirus outbreak. (AFP)

15:59 - Sweden on Wednesday reported its first death from the new coronavirus, health officials said, the first person in the Nordic region to die from the outbreak sweeping the globe.
The victim was an elderly patient with an underlying illness being treated in the intensive care unit of a hospital in the capital, the Region Stockholm health authority said in a statement.

15:45 - Qatar has recorded 238 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday meaning the total number in the country is 262, according to the country's news agency.

15:30 - Egypt is to cancel all large events and gatherings in a bid to check the spread of the deadly coronavirus. FULL ARAB NEWS STORY HERE.

The Egyptian government’s decision has sparked controversy in the country where 60 cases of the COVID-19 infection have been recorded, so far resulting in one death.

15:25 - Kuwait to declare public holiday from March 12 till March 26 due to coronavirus outbreak - state news agency.

15:10 - Kuwait on Wednesday announced it will suspend commercial flights to and from Kuwait International Airport from Friday until further notice.
Arrival trips of Kuwaiti passengers and their close relatives will be restricted, with the exception of cargo planes, a statement issued on the Kuwait News Agency said.

14:35 - US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said China did not initially handle the coronavirus outbreak properly and this likely cost the world two months when it could have prepared and dramatically curtailed the outbreak.

14:30 - The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Lebanon is 61, the health ministry said on Wednesday.




People pass in front the emergency entrance of the government-run Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where most of the Lebanese coronavirus cases are treated, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020. (AP)

14:15 -  The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus across the United Kingdom has risen to 456, up from 373 a day earlier, the health ministry said on Wednesday.




People wear protective face masks as they walk outside Parliament in London, Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2020. (AP)

13:30 - Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Lebanon said two flights have been organized in coordination with Middle East Airlines to evacuate Saudi citizens and their families who wish to leave the country over coronavirus fears. 

One of the flights will leave for King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh at 8 a.m. on Saturday and the other will leave for King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Sunday at  8 a.m.

13:00 – Finance minister Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday he would set aside $6.5 billion (£5 billion) to help Britain’s National Health Service and other public services tackle the coronavirus outbreak. In his first annual budget statement to parliament, Sunak said he would go “further if necessary”.

11:00 – The third death related to coronavirus in Germany has been confirmed.

10:50 – Iran reported 63 new virus deaths, taking the total to 354, and infection cases now at 9,000.

10:15 – Morocco announced two new coronavirus cases, involving the wife and daughter of a French tourist who was earlier contracted COVID-19. They were both quarantined for two days before testing positive for the virus.

10:00 – The Philippines has reported 6 new COVID-19 patients, bringing the total number of those who have been infected to 49.




A government worker disinfects a high school in Manila, Philippines on March 9, 2020. (AFP)

10:00 – Lebanon announced eight new cases of coronavirus infections, and a second death from the virus.

09:30 – Beijing on Wednesday ordered people arriving in the city from any country to go into 14-day quarantine as China reported an increase in imported coronavirus cases, threatening its progress against the epidemic. China has made major strides in its battle against the virus, prompting President Xi Jinping to visit Wuhan, the central city at the heart of the global epidemic, on Tuesday and declare that it has “basically curbed” the spread of the disease.

09:05 – Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr said he would reject any coronavirus treatment produced by the US.

08:40 – Iraqi Kurdistan regional officials said nationals have four days to return from Iran before borders are closed.

08:25 Belgium reported its first coronavirus death, a patient who was 90 years old, according to Belga news agency.

08:10 – Iraq canceled Friday prayers in the Shiite holy city of Kerbala due to concerns about the coronavirus, a statement from the administration of the city’s holy site said on Wednesday.
Kerbala, like the neighboring holy city of Najaf, attracts Shiites pilgrims from Iraq and abroad. Prayers had already been canceled last Friday.

07:50 – Bahrain has quarantined 77 of the 165 people who have been evacuated from Iran, after they tested positive for the virus.

07:45 – Three new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, the Kuwait health ministry said, bringing the total to 72. About 916 people have also been quarantined as a precaution against the spread of the virus. Thousands of volunteers are helping to control the spread of the virus in the country, health officials added. Kuwaiti officials likewise advised residents and citizens to avoid travel and warned against wrong information and fake news, and advised everyone to only rely on official announcements.

07:25 – Thailand on Wednesday cancelled the grant of visa on arrival for 18 countries and visa exemption for three others to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the country’s interior minister said.

Previously, nationals of 18 countries or territories could use their passports or travel documents to apply for Visa on Arrival at Thai immigration checkpoints.

The 18 places include Bulgaria, Bhutan, China (including Taiwan), Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Vanuatu.

07:15 – In Oman, the Director General of Medical Services of the Royal Oman Police said that an integrated medical team will operate the mobile police hospital to deal with coronavirus cases in the country. The mobile hospital includes an intensive care unit and a laboratory for tests, he said.

“In cooperation with the Ministry of Health, the police are working on epidemiological monitoring of upcoming cases through outlets,” he added.

06:50  Iraq has announced its second coronavirus death in Kerbala.

06:05 – Indonesia has announced its first coronavirus death in the country.

00:10 – Bolivia has confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus, Health Minister Anibal Cruz said in a public address.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Tuesday, March 10 (All times in GMT)

19:45 – Turkey announced its first coronavirus case, a man who had recently travelled to Europe and is in good health.

“The test of a patient suspected of carrying the coronavirus returned positive,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said in a television broadcast.

He added that the man was likely to have contracted COVID-19 while travelling in Europe, but declined to say which country or where in Turkey the patient had been hospitalized.

This video explaining how COVID-19 transmits person to person was produced by the World Health Organisation

18:35 – In Oman, the Diwan of Royal Court issued a statement saying a committee will be formed to handle the developments resulting from coronavirus. The statement said the committee will monitor the spread of the virus and regional and international efforts taken to combat it. The committee will also follow up all procedures taken to control the spread of the virus, the statement added.

16:20 – Bahrain’s Ministry of Health announced the recovery of eight individuals from the coronavirus. The announcement brings the total number of confirmed recoveries to 30.

16:15 – In Tunisia, a sixth confirmed coronavirus case was announced on Tuesday evening, after the results of tests carried out on 44 people suspected of carrying the virus were disclosed.


UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 6 min 54 sec ago

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
  • The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began

DUBAI: UAE health authorities reported 1,766 new coronavirus cases after conducting 211,462 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as well three deaths fatalities from the contagious disease.

The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began, with 1,607 confirmed deaths, a report from state news agency WAM said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention reiterated its call for residents to adhere coronavirus protocols and maintain social distancing to ensure public health and safety.

Meanwhile, 141,283 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been provided during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of doses provided to residents and citizens to 11,048,547.

The rate of vaccine distribution now stands at 111.71 doses per 100 people.


US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
Updated 15 min 45 sec ago

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
  • US State Department: Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations"

WASHINGTON: The United States called Friday for de-escalation in annexed east Jerusalem, and warned against carrying out a threatened eviction of Palestinian families that has sent tensions soaring.
"The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem... which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people," a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
"There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan."
He said Washington was calling on Israeli and Palestinian officials to "act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence."
And he warned it was "critical" to avoid any steps that could worsen the situation -- such as "evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism."
An earlier State Department statement said Washington was concerned in particular about the "potential eviction of Palestinian families in Silwan neighborhood and Sheikh Jarrah," two areas of east Jerusalem where tensions have been running high.
It noted that some Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations."
The comments came as more than 160 people were wounded after Israeli riot police clashed with Palestinians at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound late Friday, capping a week of violence in the Holy City and the occupied West Bank.
Earlier Friday, Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians and wounded a third after the trio opened fire on a base in the occupied West Bank, police said.
The unrest came on Al-Quds Day — named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem — an annual day of pro-Palestinian rallies held by Iran, the arch-enemy of Israel.
The nation's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel "not a country, but a terrorist base," and in a televised speech said that fighting the Jewish state was "everyone's duty."


Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
Somali opposition soldiers pose for a photograph in Mogadishu as they move to their barracks after reaching an agreement with the prime minister. (Reuters)
Updated 08 May 2021

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
  • Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three

MOGADISHU: Opposition fighters withdrew from the Somali capital on Friday, ending a tense standoff with pro-government troops after a dispute over delayed elections triggered the country’s worst political violence in years.
Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.
Under a deal reached by the warring sides this week, opposition troops began leaving their positions in the capital, and key roads sealed off with sandbags and machine guns were opened once more.
“We are sending our forces back to the frontline position to defend the country and its people,” said Mahad Salad, an opposition lawmaker, at a camp outside Mogadishu where troops assembled after pulling out of the city.
Mogadishu had been on edge since February, when President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed’s term ended before elections were held, and protesters took to the streets against his rule.
But a resolution in April to extend his mandate by two years split the country’s fragile security forces along all-important clan lines.
Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three.
The fighting drove tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and divided the city, with government forces losing some key neighborhoods to opposition units.
Under pressure to ease the tension, Mohammed abandoned his mandate extension and instructed his prime minister to arrange fresh elections and bring together rivals for talks.
“These forces came to the rescue of the people, and have taught a new lesson which will be remembered in future. They refused a dictatorship, and have forced the democratic governance process to continue,” opposition lawmaker Salad said.

FASTFACT

Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.

Indirect elections were supposed to have been held by February under a deal reached between the government and Somalia’s five regional states the previous September.
But that agreement collapsed as the president and the leaders of two states, Puntland and Jubaland, squabbled over the terms.
Months of UN-backed talks failed to broker consensus between the feuding sides.
In early May, Mohammed relaunched talks with his opponents over the holding of fresh elections, and agreed to return to the terms of the September accord.
Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble has invited the regional leaders to a round of negotiations on May 20 in the hope of resolving the protracted feud and charting a path to a vote.
The international community has threatened sanctions if elections are not held soon, and warned the political infighting distracted from the fight against Al-Shabab, the militants who control swathes of countryside.
Maj.-Gen. Ali Araye Osoble told opposition troops outside the capital that it was time to return to duty.
“I order that you return to your positions and fulfil your commitments in the fight against Al-Shabab,” the opposition commander said.


Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis
People wearing protective face masks walk in Tunis, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Tunisia, April 29, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 May 2021

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis
  • Under new rules, travel will be banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations prohibited, and a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed

TUNIS: Tunisia ordered a partial lockdown from Sunday for the week-long Eid Al-Fitr holidays, warning that any further increase in coronavirus infections could overwhelm specialist care facilities.
Announcing the measure on Friday, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said Tunisia was going through “the worst health crisis in its history.”
Mosques, markets and nonessential businesses will be closed under the new restrictions, which come as Muslims mark the end of the month of Ramadan, said Mechichi.
“Health institutions are at risk of collapse,” Mechichi said, adding that medics were stretched to the limit, with around 100 people a day dying of COVID-19.
More than 500 people are currently in intensive care, an unprecedented number that has required medics to set up field hospitals, and the North African country is struggling to meet the demand for oxygen.
Under new rules, travel will be banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations prohibited, and a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed.
Tunisians are encouraged to leave their homes only for what is strictly necessary, government spokeswoman Hasna Ben Slimane said.
The Mediterranean country, with a population of around 12 million, has recorded more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and over 11,200 deaths.
Tunisia’s economy has lurched from one crisis to another since the country’s 2011 revolution, with GDP estimated to have contracted by a record 8.2 percent last year.
Mechichi had said several times in recent weeks that Tunisia is unable to afford to repeat the restrictions put in place in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.


US envoy in Sudan in a bid to resolve dam dispute

US envoy in Sudan in a bid to resolve dam dispute
U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, left, meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP)
Updated 08 May 2021

US envoy in Sudan in a bid to resolve dam dispute

US envoy in Sudan in a bid to resolve dam dispute
  • The dispute now centers on how quickly Ethiopia should fill and replenish the reservoir and how much water it releases downstream in case of a multi-year drought

CAIRO: The US envoy for the Horn of Africa was in Sudan on Friday, the latest stop on his tour of the region aimed at resolving the decade-long dispute over Ethiopia’s massive dam on the Nile River’s main tributary.
During his two-day visit, Jeffrey Feltman is expected to hold talks with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and foreign and irrigation ministers, the state-run news agency reported.
Feltman is to discuss the ongoing dispute between Ethiopia on one hand, and Sudan and Egypt on the other over Addis Ababa’s filling of the reservoir on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. The dispute has exacerbated concerns of an escalation into a military conflict that could threaten the entire region.
The dispute now centers on how quickly Ethiopia should fill and replenish the reservoir and how much water it releases downstream in case of a multi-year drought. The latest round of African Union-brokered negotiations in April failed to make progress.
Egypt and Sudan argue that Ethiopia’s plan to add 13.5 billion cubic meters of water in 2021 to the dam’s reservoir is a threat to them. Cairo and Khartoum have called for the US, the UN, and EU to help reach a legally binding deal. The agreement would spell out how the dam is operated and filled, based on international law and norms governing cross-border rivers.
Egypt, which relies on the Nile for more than 90 percent of its water supplies, fears a devastating impact if the dam is operated without taking its needs into account. Ethiopia says the $5 billion dam is essential, arguing the vast majority of its population lacks electricity.
Sudan wants Ethiopia to coordinate and share data on the dam’s operation to avoid flooding and protect its own power-generating dams on the Blue Nile, the main tributary of the Nile. The Blue Nile meets with the White Nile in Khartoum, from where it winds northward through Egypt and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.