Middle East shuts down more public spaces to curb coronavirus spread

Middle East shuts down more public spaces to curb coronavirus spread
Iraqi volunteers spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus during a curfew, in a market in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 22, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 23 March 2020

Middle East shuts down more public spaces to curb coronavirus spread

Middle East shuts down more public spaces to curb coronavirus spread

DUBAI: Governments in the Middle East increased regulations to control the spread of coronavirus as scores more are infected.

The UAE shut down pools, beaches, parks, cinemas and gyms to contain the spread of coronavirus, allowing restaurants to work at 20 percent capacity with customers at least two meters apart.

COVID-19 has infected more than 308,000 people globally, and has claimed the lives of over 13,000.

Sunday, March 22 (All times in GMT)

21:35 - UAE is to close all shopping malls as a result of the virus outbreak.

20:35 - Egypt’s military said a senior officer died Sunday following his infection from the coronavirus.

The military said in a statement that Major General Khaled Shaltout was infected while participating in sterilization across the country

20:05 - Egypt reported four deaths and 33 new coronavirus cases and said 56 cases have recovered from the COVID19 virus.

19:55 - France's two-chamber parliament on Sunday declared a health emergency in the country to counter the spread of the coronavirus, giving the government greater powers to fight the pandemic.

The text, first agreed by the upper house Senate, passed its final legislative hurdle later in the evening when it was adopted by the lower house National Assembly dominated by President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party.

19:25 - Syria’s health minister says the country has reported its first case of coronavirus for a person who came from abroad.

State news agency SANA quoted the minister, Nizar Yazigi, as saying Sunday that all measures have been taken to deal with the case. The minister did not say which country the infected person came from.

18:10 - Qatar, where 481 coronavirus cases have been reported, has introduced checkpoints to enforce a ban on public gatherings. There are fears for the health of tens of thousands of migrant workers under quarantine, effectively locked into a densely populated district southwest of Doha, known as the Industrial Area. No one is allowed to leave.

Amnesty International warned that cramped conditions there were putting the workers at risk, and called for “access to health care, including preventive care and treatment for everyone affected, without discrimination.”

18:00 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine after being informed that a doctor who administered a vaccine to her has tested positive for the new coronavirus. FULL STORY HERE.

17:55 - Republican US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for coronavirus, his office said in a statement on Sunday, becoming the first member of the upper chamber of Congress to announce he has COVID-19 as the number of US cases continued to grow.

Paul has no symptoms and was tested out of “abundance of caution” given his recent travels, according to the statement, which comes as the Senate prepared to take up a massive economic relief bill.

Other US senators self-quarantined as a precaution in recent weeks, and at least two members of the House of Representatives have also tested positive.

17:15 - UK prime minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation in his daily briefing, where he told people to follow the government's advice on social distancing when in parks and outdoor spaces.

"Please follow the advice and don't think that fresh air in itself automatically provides some immunity... you have to stay two metres apart, you have to follow the social distancing advice," he said on Sunday.


17:15 - The death toll in Italy has risen by 651 to 5,476, officials said on Sunday, an increase of 13.5% but down on Saturday’s figure when some 793 people died.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 59,138 from a previous 53,578, an increase of 10.4%, the Civil Protection Agency said — the lowest rise in percentage terms since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.

16:40 - Opera superstar Placido Domingo has contracted coronavirus, he announced on Sunday, The classical musical icon took to Facebook to urge his fans to follow basic health guidelines, as the death toll from the pandemic grows.

16:20 - Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said Kuwaitis had to adhere to preventative measures to stop the spread of the virus, and that the measures should not be taken lightly. He added that arrangements would be made to return Kuwaiti students from abroad.

15:50 - Bahrain announced BHD4.3 billion ($11.5 billion) economic package to meet coronavirus needs and summoned volunteers with medical expertise to assist with the outbreak response.

A government spokesperson also said that all food and drug supplies were available with no need to resort to hoarding.

14:40 - The mayor of New York City, which has more than a third of the nation’s coronavirus cases, on Sunday described the outbreak as the biggest domestic crisis since the Great Depression and called for the US military to mobilize to help keep the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.
“If we don’t get more ventilators in the next 10 days people will die who don’t have to die,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, as the nation’s most populous city saw cases top 8,000 and deaths hit 60. Nationwide cases are over 25,000 with at least 340 dead, according to a Reuters tally. 

14:30 - Bahrain said a 51-year-old woman has died from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to two.

14:20 - Following the request from Lebanon's prime minister Hassan Diab on Saturday for stricter preventative measures, the country's army have been on the streets of downtown Beirut today patrolling...

13:55 - Oman has stopped the printing of all newsapapers, magazines and other publications as well as their circulation due to the coronavirus outbreak, the country's news agency said on Sunday.

13:40 - Dubai's Emirates Airline has announced it is suspending all pasenger flights while keeping its SkyCargo operations running.

13:00 - Dubai's Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum tweets that the government has set up teams to help the UAE during the coronavirus crisis and that there needs to be "unity and cooperation" in these times...

11:45 – Palestine has ordered its citizens to a 14-day home confinement that will start on Sunday evening.

Medical personnel, pharmacists, grocers and bakers exempted have been exempted from the order.

11:10 – An 82-year old man who died in hospital in Kosovo on Sunday is the country’s first victim of the coronavirus, the Kosovo Public Health Institute said in a statement.

“Patient already had chronic illness, cardio and pulmonary,” the statement said.

Kosovo, a country of 2 million people, has registered 31 cases of people infected with coronavirus. 

10:55 – Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus epidemic soared to 1,720 on Sunday from 1,326 the day before, according to multiple media outlets citing the latest health data.
The number of registered cases in the country rose to 28,572 on Sunday from 24,926 in the previous tally announced on Saturday, the reports added.

10:30 – Tunisia has confirmed 15 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the toll to 75.

10:05 – Oman has announced new measures to combat the spread of the virus, including banning public gatherings and implementing remote work for both government and private employees.

The country has also ordered the closure of exchange houses, and has shut down the printing of newspapers, magazines and other publications of the same kind.

09:55 – Morocco has recorded eight new cases of coronavirus, bringing the number to 104.

09:55 – Spain said it will extend state of emergency for another 15 days due to COVID-19.

09:50 – Kuwait Oil Ministry has extended the suspension of businesses due to coronavirus outbreak. It will resume work on April 12.

09:45 – The World Heatlh Organization said developing vaccine for COIVD-19 could take one year.

09:40 – Iran has reported the total number of coronavirus cases in the country has reached 21,638, and the death toll at 1,685.

08:40 – Millions of Indians went into lockdown Sunday as the country brought most of its vast railway network to a halt in a bid to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Most domestic flights were grounded and shops shut their doors for the 14-hour curfew that is designed to test the country’s ability to fight the pandemic.

08:05 – Romania records first death due to coronavirus, government reported.

07:55 – Kuwait’s Health Ministry recorded 12 new cases of coronavirus over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 188 with 30 recoveries.

07:45 – Iran’s supreme leader is refusing US assistance to fight the new coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus could be man-made by America.

07:40 – The Algerian Minister of Health has announced that the country has entered its third phase of the coronavirus outbreak.

06:35 – Oman’s Ministry of Health recorded three new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number to 55. The ministry has reported 17 recoveries so far.

06:10 – The Russian military will start sending medical help to Italy from Sunday in order to help it battle the new coronavirus after receiving an order from President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

05:45 – Kuwait’s Ministry of Health announced that 3 cases of coronavirus infected patients have recovered, bringing the total of those recovered to 30.

04:50 – Thailand reported 188 new coronavirus infections, its largest daily increase, taking the total to 599 cases, a senior health official said.
The majority of the new infections are connected to a previous cluster of cases from a boxing stadium, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a Public Health Ministry spokesman, told a news conference adding one patient had recovered.
“Most of the new cases were found in Bangkok and were among young people who continue to have social activities, which can lead to more infections,” he said urging the public to stay home.
There has been one death in Thailand.

04:25 – Singapore will not allow any short-term visitors to transit or enter the city-state in its latest measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus and to conserve healthcare resources for its citizens.

Saturday, March 21 (All times in GMT)

21:05 – Kuwait’s government imposed a partial curfew from 14:00 till 01:00 due to incompliance with instructions to stay at home.

20:55 – Morocco confirmed new coronavirus cases, bringing the toll to 96.

The Ministry of health reported three recoveries and three deaths so far.

19:35 – Egypt’s Ministry of Health recorded nine new cases of coronavirus, increasing the total to 294.

The ministry also confirmed two new deaths, bringing the toll to 10. So far, there have been 41 recoveries.

18:40 – Algeria’s Ministry of Health said their death toll of coronavirus patients has increased to 15.

The number of infections in Algeria is currently at 139.

18:30 – Jordan’s Authorities announced 15 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the toll to 99.

17:30 – Iraq reported an increase in coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 214.

Authorities have also reported three new deaths, increasing the toll to 17.

14:45 – Palestine’s Ministry of Health announced four new cases of coronavirus, bringing the toll to 52. So far, there have been 17 recoveries.

Drought-hit Jordan to build Red Sea desalination plant

Drought-hit Jordan to build Red Sea desalination plant
Updated 13 June 2021

Drought-hit Jordan to build Red Sea desalination plant

Drought-hit Jordan to build Red Sea desalination plant
  • The cost of the project is estimated at ‘around $1 billion’
  • Thirteen international consortiums have put in bids, and the government will chose five of them by July

AMMAN: Jordan said Sunday it plans to build a Red Sea desalination plant operating within five years, to provide the mostly-desert and drought-hit kingdom with critical drinking water.
The cost of the project is estimated at “around $1 billion,” ministry of water and irrigation spokesman Omar Salameh said, adding that the plant would be built in the Gulf of Aqaba, in southern Jordan.
The plant is expected to produce 250-300 million cubic meters of potable water per year, and should be ready for operation in 2025 or 2026, Salameh said.
“It will cover the need for drinking water (in Jordan) for the next two centuries,” he said, adding that the desalinated water would be piped from Aqaba on the Red Sea to the rest of the country.
Jordan is one of the world’s most water-deficient countries and experts say the country, home to 10 million people, is now in the grip of one of the most severe droughts in its history.
Thirteen international consortiums have put in bids, and the government will chose five of them by July, Salameh said.
Desalinating water is a major drain of energy, and the companies must suggest how to run the plant in Jordan, which does not have major oil reserves.
Last month Salameh said that Jordan needs about 1.3 billion cubic meters of water per year.
But the quantities available are around 850 to 900 million cubic meters, with the shortfall “due to low rainfall, global warming, population growth and successive refugee inflows,” he said.
This year, the reserves of key drinking water dams have reached critical levels, many now a third of their normal capacity.

Former Jordan royal court chief faces trial over destabilization plot

Former Jordan royal court chief faces trial over destabilization plot
Updated 13 June 2021

Former Jordan royal court chief faces trial over destabilization plot

Former Jordan royal court chief faces trial over destabilization plot

CAIRO: Jordan's military court will start the trial next week of former royal court chief Bassem Awadallah and Sherif Hassan Zaid Hussein on charges of agitating to destabilise the monarchy, state media said on Sunday.

Prosecutors last week referred to court the defendants case. They were arrested in early April over allegations they had liaised with foreign parties over a plot to destabilise Jordan. 

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19
Updated 13 June 2021

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Two thirds of eligible people in Dubai fully vaccinated against COVID-19
  • For six months the UAE has been running one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns against COVID-19

DUBAI: About two-thirds of people eligible for inoculation against COVID-19 have now received two doses of the vaccine in Dubai, the tourist and business hub of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said.
Dubai is the most populous of the seven emirates that make up the UAE and has one of the world’s busiest airports.
For six months the UAE has been running one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns against COVID-19, initially using a vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and then adding the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca shots and Russia’s Sputnik V.
DHA deputy director general Alawi Alsheikh Ali told Dubai Television late on Saturday that 83 percent of people aged over 16 — or about 2.3 million people — had now received at least one dose of a vaccine and that 64 percent had received two doses in the emirate.
The UAE recently said nearly 85 percent of its total eligible population had received at least one dose of a vaccine, without saying how many people had had both doses.
The UAE, which does not break down the number of cases by emirate, has seen a rise in the number of infections in the past month. It recorded 2,281 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total so far to around 596,000 cases. Daily cases peaked at almost 4,000 a day in early February.
DHA said 90 percent of the COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units in Dubai hospitals were unvaccinated, without specifying when that statistic was recorded.

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says
Updated 13 June 2021

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

Algerian parliamentary election results expected within days, authority says

ALGIERS: The results of an Algerian parliamentary election in which fewer than a third of voters took part will be announced within a few days, the head of the voting authority said late on Saturday.
The ruling establishment has tried to use elections along with a crackdown on dissent as a way to end two years of political unrest, with Algeria facing a looming economic crisis.
Supporters of the “Hirak” mass protest movement said it showed the system lacked legitimacy. Two prominent journalists, Khaled Drareni and Ihsane El Kadi, and the opposition figure Karim Tabbou, were detained last week but released on Saturday.
Politicians said the turnout of 30.2 percent, the lowest ever officially recorded for a parliamentary election in Algeria, was “acceptable.”
“The election took place in good conditions. Voters were able to vote and choose the most suitable candidates to serve Algeria,” said election authority head Mohamed Chorfi on television.
The protests erupted in 2019 and unseated veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, continuing weekly until the global pandemic struck a year later. After a year-long pause they resumed in February but police mostly quashed them last month.
Many Algerians believe real power rests with the military and security establishments who have dominated politics for decades, rather than with elected politicians.
“We have grown accustomed in the past to high turnout due to fraud,” said Arslan Chikhaoui, an Algerian analyst, saying the authorities had manipulated the results of elections before the Hirak protests to suggest greater enthusiasm.
After Bouteflika was forced to step down, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was elected with a turnout of 40 percent. Last year he held a referendum on an amended constitution that gained only 25 percent of votes.
The old parties that traditionally dominated have been tarred with corruption and abuse scandals, giving space to independents and moderate Islamist parties that hope to gain a majority of seats in the new parliament.
Those that win a lot of seats are likely to be included in the next government.
During parliament’s coming five-year term, Algeria is likely to face a fiscal and economic crunch, after burning through four fifths of foreign currency reserves since 2013.
The government has maintained expensive social programs and the state’s central role in the economy despite plummeting oil and gas sales.
Reforms to strengthen the private sector contributed to corruption that fueled the Hirak. Spending cuts could trigger a new wave of protests against the ruling establishment.
Laws passed by the outgoing parliament to encourage foreign and private investment and strengthen the energy sector have so far had little effect.

Lebanon stops Syrians attempting illegal sea crossing

Lebanon stops Syrians attempting illegal sea crossing
Updated 13 June 2021

Lebanon stops Syrians attempting illegal sea crossing

Lebanon stops Syrians attempting illegal sea crossing

BEIRUT: The Lebanese army on Sunday said it intercepted a small boat carrying 11 people, mostly Syrians, attempting an illegal sea crossing out of the crisis-hit country.
A statement said a naval force spotted the boat off the northern port city of Tripoli and that its passengers were all detained and referred for investigation, the army added.
The boat was carrying “10 people of Syrian nationality and a Lebanese national,” it said.
Their journey’s end was not specified but neighboring Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has been a popular sea smuggling destination in recent months.
In May, the Lebanese army intercepted a boat near Tripoli carrying 60 people, including 59 Syrians.
Lebanon, home to more than six million people, says it hosts more than a million Syrian refugees.
They have been hit hard by widening poverty rates and growing food insecurity brought on by the country’s economic crisis.
In a report released this month, the World Bank warned that Lebanon’s economic collapse is likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.