Coronavirus infections continue to rise in Middle East

A women wearing facemasks walk near the Grand Bazaar in central Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, on March 13, 2020, during the COVID-19 outbreak. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Coronavirus infections continue to rise in Middle East

  • Saudi Arabia will suspend international flights for two weeks starting Sunday
  • Egypt recorded 13 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 93

DUBAI: Governments in the Middle East and the rest of the world have taken more precautionary measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, including travel restrictions, work and class suspensions and quarantines.

Saturday, March 14 (All times in GMT)

20:46 - Kuwait will close shopping malls and children's entertainment centres over coronavirus fears, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported. 

19:30 - Moroccan authorities on Saturday suspended flights to and from 21 countries including Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Senegal, among others, the state news agency reported.

19:24 - Dubai said on Saturday it was temporarily suspending operations at four major theme parks and tourist attractions until the end of March amid coronavirus concerns.
The emirate's government media office said in a statement that Motiongate Dubai, Legoland Dubai, Legoland Waterpark Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai would be closed to ensure the health and safety of guests and employees.

19:05 - Saudi Arabia has suspended all public social gatherings including weddings and announced the temporary closure of places designated for recreational and sports activities in and outside of shopping malls to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the Kingdom. 

18:50 - French prime minister says the country is to shut down cafes, shops, restaurants and cinemas to prevent spread of coronavirus. He also said government would be keeping public transport open, but asked the public to limit its use.

Death toll in France jumps to 91 from 79.

18:25 - Saudi Arabia's central bank said on Saturday it had prepared a SR50 billion ($13 billion) package to help small and medium-sized enterprises cope with the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.
The funding from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) is aimed at granting SMEs six-month deferrals on bank payments, concessional financing and exemptions from the costs of a loan guarantee programme.

16:45 - US Vice President Mike Pence said during a White House briefing on Saturday that the UK and Ireland would be included in the US travel restrictions on Europe effective from midnight on Monday (eastern time).

16:30 - Jordan said Saturday it would halt flights, close its land borders and shut down schools, places of worship and public gatherings to stop the spread of novel coronavirus.

Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz told official news agency Petra that "all flights into and out of the kingdom will be suspended from Tuesday until further notice."

He said exceptions would be made for cargo flights and those carrying diplomats and staff of international organisations, providing they follow health ministry guidelines -- including a two-week quarantine.



16:00 - Saudi Arabia's health ministry announced 17 new cases on Saturday.

15:10 - Egypt announced that schools and universities country-wide would be closed for two weeks starting from Sunday March 15.

14:50 - The UAE announced three new coronavirus recoveries, meaning the total number of people who have recovered in the emirates now stands at 23.

14:45 - A reminder of today's earlier news, Saudi Arabia has suspended international flights in and out of the Kingdom from Sunday (Mar. 15) to prevent the spread of coronavirus. FULL STORY HERE.

14:30 - The UK's National Health Service confirmed on Saturday that a further 10 people have died in England from the coronavirus, meaning Britain's total death toll is 21.

14:00 - The UAE's General Authority of Civil Aviation announced on Saturday the suspension of all incoming and outgoing flights to Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Iraq from March 17 until further notice due to the virus.

Elsewhere in the emirates, the UAE's tourism body has asked all hospitality establishments to close nightclubs with immediate effect, while Abu Dhabi announced the closure of movie theaters, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, theme parks, and other tourist attractions.

13:45 - Spain's government has put the country under lockdown as part of state of emergency measures meant to combat coronavirus. 

According to a draft decree, Spaniards will be ordered to stay in their homes except to buy food or drugs, go to the hospital, go to work or in emergency situations.

13:00 - The UAE is to stop issuing visas from March 17 with the exception of diplomatic passport holders to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

12:00 - Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sports announced the suspension of all sporting activities and competitions in the Kingdom on Saturday.

A statement issued by the ministry said that private sport centres and gyms would also close as of Sunday.

10:40 – Iran said the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country have reached 12,729 on Saturday, with 97 new deaths increasing the toll to 611.

10:30 – Kuwait has confirmed on Saturday four new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 104.

10:25 – The Tunisian transport ministry said they have taken strict measures to monitor ships due to the new virus.

It said the country was limiting its flights to and from Paris to once daily, adding they were working to evacuate 160 Tunisians stuck in the hard-hit European country.

10:20 – Oman has suspended schools for one month starting March 15.

09:55 – Abu Dhabi has closed tourist areas, entertainment cities, and the Louvre museum due to the outbreak.

09:10 – Iran will halt work on the expansion of its Abadan oil refinery until mid-April due to coronavirus.

07:30 – Two coronavirus cases recovered in Kuwait, bringing the total number of recoveries to seven.

07:20 – Morocco has suspended travel to Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal, banned gatherings of more than 50 people and cancelled sports, cultural and arts events due to coronavirus.

06:30 – New Zealand has canceled a national remembrance service to mark Sunday’s first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks because of coronavirus fears, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

04:25 – Colombia’s president has ordered his nation’s border with Venezuela closed as a coronavirus containment measure.

Iván Duque announced late Friday that all official border crossing with the neighboring Andean nation will be shuttered beginning at 5 a.m. Saturday.

03:05 – Saudi Arabia will suspend international flights for two weeks starting Sunday to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, the interior ministry announced on Saturday.

02:40 – Two Saudi citizens have recovered from coronavirus (COVID-19) and have left the medical isolation unit in Al-Salmaniya hospital, the Saudi Embassy in Manama reported.

Meanwhile, Saudi Airlines will operate flights to Riyadh and Jeddah starting Sunday, the Saudi embassy in the Philippines said.

Friday, March 13 (All times in GMT)

18:50 - The UAE government said it will activate remote work for a segment of federal government employees, starting March 15 to March 26, and subject to renewal.

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

18:40 – Oman’s Ministry of Health reported a new confirmed coronavirus case of a citizen linked to traveling to Iran. This brings the total number of infected cases to 20.

15:15 – In Kuwait, the Head of the Kuwait's Center for Government Communication (CGC) and its official spokesperson, Tareq Al-Mizrem, denied rumoured curfew imposed in Kuwait due to coronavirus.

13:55 – Sudan reported its first coronavirus death in the country. The patient was a 50-year-old man living in Khartoum.

09:00 – Morocco’s health ministry reported a new coronavirus case, bringing the total number of infected cases to eight.

09:00 – Egypt recorded 13 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 93.

Israeli PM: Palestinians in Jordan Valley won’t be citizens

Updated 28 May 2020

Israeli PM: Palestinians in Jordan Valley won’t be citizens

  • Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with plans to annex the Jordan Valley

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley will remain in what he described as an “enclave” after Israel annexes the territory and will not be granted Israeli citizenship.
Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with plans to annex the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in line with President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, a process that could begin as early as July 1.
The annexation of the Jordan Valley and the far-flung settlements would make it virtually impossible to create a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, which is still widely seen as the only way to resolve the decades-old conflict.
In an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper, Netanyahu said Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, including residents of the city of Jericho, would remain under limited Palestinian self-rule, with Israel having overall security control.
“They will remain a Palestinian enclave,” he said. “You’re not annexing Jericho. There’s a cluster or two. You don’t need to apply sovereignty over them. They will remain Palestinian subjects, if you will. But security control also applies to these places.”
Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military rule since the 1967 war, when Israel captured the territory, along with east Jerusalem and Gaza. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state.
The Trump plan would grant the Palestinians limited statehood over scattered enclaves surrounded by Israel if they meet a long list of conditions. Israel has embraced the plan, while the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, has angrily rejected it and cut ties with the US and Israel.
Netanyahu said that if the Palestinians accept all the conditions in the plan, including Israel maintaining overall security control, “then they will have an entity of their own that President Trump defines as a state.”
Under a coalition agreement reached last month, Netanyahu can bring his annexation plans before the government as early as July 1.
The Palestinian Authority has said it is no longer bound by any agreements signed with Israel and the US, and says it has cut off security coordination with Israel. Neighboring Jordan, a close Western ally and one of only two Arab states to have made peace with Israel, has warned of a “massive conflict” if Israel proceeds with annexation.