Middle East imposes further restrictions on public events, closes borders in effort to tackle coronavirus

A woman wearing a protective mask walks outside the Crowne Plaza hotel at Yas Island Abu Dhabi on February 28, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 16 March 2020

Middle East imposes further restrictions on public events, closes borders in effort to tackle coronavirus

DUBAI: Governments across the Middle East have imposed extra closures, temporarily closing city entertainment centers and events amid further travel restrictions, in an attempt to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Kuwait said it will close shopping malls and children's entertainment centres over coronavirus fears. While Saudi Arabia has suspended all public 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.

The United Arab Emirates has also temporarily suspended operations at major attractions, including theme parks, Louvre Abu Dhabi and events until the end of the month.

Sunday, March 15 (All times in GMT)

21:20 – Saudi Arabia suspends employees at government agencies from attending the work place for 16 days except for those working in health, security and military.

20:30 – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Sunday that the G20 will coordinate efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. During a phone call with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the crown prince said the G20 would set policies to help find medical solutions and ease economic burdens. 



19:30 – France recorded 29 additional coronavirus deaths Sunday, the biggest one-day increase in the country since the outbreak, bringing the total death toll to 120.

19:25  Lebanon will temporarily shut its airport, borders, and ports from Wednesday until March 29 as part of a state of health emergency to combat coronavirus.

19:20  Saudi Arabia announces 15 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number to 118.



18:15  Iraq has suspended all flights to and from Baghdad airport as of March 17 until March 24 and imposed a curfew in Baghdad over the same period. At least 110 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed so far in Iraq, and 10 people have died.

18:00 –  Saudi Arabia postpones all judicial hearings except for urgent cases due to coronavirus.

17:30 – Qatar will bar entry to arriving air passengers except citizens from Wednesday.

17:15 – Italy records 368 new coronavirus deaths taking the toll to 1,809 from 1,441 the previous day.

17:00 –  Saudi Arabia announces a compulsory two-week sick leave for pregnant women. The leave has also been granted ton people suffering certain health conditions.

16:20  Saudi Arabia is to close shopping malls apart from supermarkets and pharmacies, Al-Arabiya reported. The Kingdom also banned serving food in restaurants and cafes, but allowed food delivery services.

16:10 – UAE announces 12 new coronavirus cases bringing the total to 98.

15:50 – UK says coronavirus death toll has risen to 35 and the number of cases has reached 1,372.



15:30 – Lebanon's banks will close until March 29 as part of steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Lebanese media reported.


14:40 – Egypt's Central Bank instructs banks to postpone loan repayments for small and medium businesses for six months.

14:20 – Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Sunday his country was in a state of "medical emergency" because of the threat of coronavirus.

14:15 – Germany plans to close its borders with Austria, France and Switzerland from Monday, Focus Online and newspaper Bild reported on Sunday.

13:55 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being tested for coronavirus, but he was not showing symptoms.

13:35 – Morocco on Sunday suspended day all international passenger flights to and from its airports as a protective measure against the spread of coronavirus.

13:20 – Spain on Sunday reported some 2,000 new coronavirus cases and more than a hundred deaths over the last 24 hours, the latest spike in Europe's second-most affected country after Italy.

10:55 – Iraq authorities will put the city of Najaf under lockdown due to coronavirus, only residents will be allowed to enter.

10:41 – Iran’s death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 724, with 113 new deaths in the past 24 hours, an Iranian health official tweeted on Sunday, adding that some 13,938 people have been infected across the country.
“In the past 24 hours, 1,209 new cases have been confirmed ... with 113 deaths in the past 24 hours, the death toll has reached 724,” Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran’s health minister, tweeted.

10:11 – The Czech government will declare quarantine on the entire country, local media reported on Sunday, quoting Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

10:10 – Train and bus services between cities in France will be progressively reduced due to the coronavirus outbreak, a French minister said on Sunday.

10:02 – Singapore’s health ministry on Sunday urged its citizens to cancel or delay all non-essential travel abroad as part of its latest measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Singapore will also tell all travellers to the country with recent travel history to southeast Asian nations, Japan, Switzerland or the United Kingdom to quarantine themselves at their place of residence for 14 days, the ministry added.
The Asian travel hub is already set to bar from Monday entry or transit to visitors who have been in coronavirus-hit countries Italy, France, Spain or Germany in the last 14 days, as part of measures to control the spread of infection.
It has a similar ban in place for travellers from Iran, South Korea and China.
Singapore has reported more than 200 infections, but no fatalities.

09:44 – Turkey has set up quarantine locations for more than 10,300 people returning from pilgrimages to Islam’s holy sites in Saudi Arabia.
The Youth and Sport Ministry said Sunday that beds had been made available in university dormitories in the capital, Ankara, and the central Anatolian city of Konya for those returning from Umrah, a pilgrimage that can be made at any time of the year. Returnees will be quarantined for 14 days in an effort to combat the coronavirus.
Universities have been closed for three weeks due to the virus outbreak. Turkey’s latest case, its sixth, was a returning pilgrim.

09:24 – Austria introduced major restrictions on movement in public places on Sunday, urging Austrians to self-isolate, banning gatherings of more than five persons and further reducing entries from other countries.
It was not clear whether the restrictions were meant to come into force immediately, although restaurants were ordered closed from Tuesday.
“Austrians are being summoned to isolate themselves,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said in a statement. “That means only making social contact with the people with whom they live.”
Visitors from Great Britain, the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine would not be allowed into the country, the chancellor’s office said in a statement, unless they undertook two weeks of home quarantine or had a current health certificate.

09:20 – Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock will shut their doors as a precaution against coronavirus, Islamic religious authorities said on Sunday, while outdoor prayers will still be allowed at the complex that houses Islam’s third holiest site.
“The Islamic Waqf department decided to shut down the enclosed prayer places inside the blessed Aqsa mosque until further notice as a protective measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All prayers will be held in the open areas of the Aqsa mosque,” the director of Al-Aqsa mosque, Omar Kiswani told Reuters.

09:13 – The Philippines recorded three additional coronavirus deaths and 29 new cases, bringing the domestic tally of infections to 140, as authorities placed the entire capital Manila under “community quarantine”  for about a month beginning Sunday.
The latest deaths include an 83-year-old American male with travel history from the United States and South Korea, the Department of Health said in an advisory.
The other two are both Filipinos.
In total, 11 people have died from the virus in the country, a Reuters tally shows.
Domestic land, sea and air travel to and from Metro Manila is now restricted, while stringent measures to contain or prevent local transmission have been imposed in other parts of the Southeast Asian country. 

09:11 – The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) said on Sunday it was temporarily closing all its trading halls until further notice due to the global coronavirus outbreak.
The ADX said in a statement it was closing trading halls at its main offices in Abu Dhabi and in other emirates as a precautionary measure to protect public health in the UAE.

09:02 – Malaysia reported 190 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, most linked to a religious event at a mosque that was attended by more than 10,000 people from several countries.
The new cases bring the total number of infections in the country to 428, the health ministry said in a statement

08:46 – Iran is delaying its second round of parliamentary elections due to the coronavirus outbreak.

08:31 – Jordan reported six cases of coronavirus, four of them French tourists visiting the country, the state news agency Petra reported.
The other two cases are Jordanian nationals. One of them arrived from the UK, while the second was in contact with an American tourist who arrived from Egypt.

08:22 – State-run Russian Railways said on Sunday it would halt trains to and from Ukraine and Moldova from March 17 in an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak, TASS news agency reported.
Russia, which has so far recorded 59 cases of the virus, said earlier this week that it would suspend most flights to and from Europe over the coronavirus.

08:21 – All French ski resorts are closing on Sunday and will not reopen for the rest of the season as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, ski resort operators said, dealing another heavy blow to a France’s tourism industry.
“The ski season ends today,” Domaines Skiables de France, which group’s the country’s resort operators, said on Twitter. “Holiday-makers and professionals, we’re all passionate about skiing and must face up to the seriousness of the situation.”

Most resorts usually close in April or early May. The shutdown comes just three weeks before the French and British school holidays, one of the busiest periods of the season.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Saturday evening that France would shut all shops, restaurants and entertainment sites.


07:51 – Kuwait reported 8 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 112.
All of the new patients had traveled abroad, three from the UK, one from France through the UAE and one from Iran. The remaining three cases are those who got in touch with the earlier cases which traveled to the UK.
The new patients are all Kuwaiti nationals.


07:30 - The Seychelles has confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus, which has now hit 25 countries in Africa, largely spared by the pandemic until recently.
Public Health Commissioner Jude Gedeon announced late on Saturday that two citizens returning from Italy on March 11 had tested positive for the virus.

07:21 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial has been postponed until May 24 due to concerns about coronavirus, the Jerusalem District Court said Sunday.
“Given the spread of coronavirus and in accordance with instructions limiting the court’s work to only urgent matters, we have decided to postpone the first hearing until May 24,” a statement said regarding the trial which had been set to open on Tuesday.

07:19 – ISNA News Agency said a member of Iranian Assembly of Experts, Hashem Kalbakani, has coronavirus.

07:19 – Polling stations in France opened at 8:00 am (0700 GMT) on Sunday for nationwide local elections, defying a mounting health crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak that still risks keeping many voters at home.
Some 47.7 million people are registered to vote in some 35,000 municipalities, as France imposed fresh restrictions to try to curb the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of non-essential public places such as cafes, restaurants, cinemas and gyms.
Polling stations will remain open until 1700 GMT, 1800 GMT and 1900 GMT respectively, depending on the municipality, and a second round is scheduled to be held on March 22.

06:34 – The Vatican said on Sunday it will hold all Easter celebrations without a congregation due to the outbreak.

06:24 – Thailand reported 32 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the total infections in the Southeast Asian country to 114, health officials said.
It was the biggest daily jump in cases in Thailand, which was one of the first countries outside China to report coronavirus infections. 

05:58 – An Uzbek citizen has tested positive for coronavirus after returning from France, Uzbekistan’s Healthcare Ministry said on Sunday, marking the first infection from the virus in the Central Asian country of 34 million.

04:32 – Australia on Sunday announced anyone arriving into the country will face mandatory 14-day self-isolation, in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are going to have to get used to some changes in the way we live our lives,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, adding the measure will come into effect from midnight (1300 GMT Sunday).

Saturday, March 14

19:32 – The UAE ministry of health announced the diagnosis of a new case infected with the novel coronavirus on Saturday evening. The ministry confirmed that an Indian national had tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from annual leave.

UAE govt dismisses coronavirus number rumors, sharing risks jail and fines

Updated 11 min 52 sec ago

UAE govt dismisses coronavirus number rumors, sharing risks jail and fines

  • People found to have shared misinformation face jail and fines
  • Official figures are available on the government website and local media

DUBAI:  The UAE government has again warned against the spreading of misinformation, after a series of rumors circulated questioning the official number of recorded cases of coronavirus infection in the country, state news agency WAM reported.

“These reports contradict with the announcements made by the official authorities,” a health department statement said.

The statement explained that people should gather their information from official sources and “disregard rumors,” adding that those found sharing and promoting false information would face fines and possible jail terms.

The WOrld Health Organisation has previously voiced its own concerns about the amount of misinformation being circulated about the coronavirus, warning that it can also cause a lot of harm.

According to the UAE’s Department of Health website there are 611 confirmed cases, of which 61 people recovered and five people have died.