Middle East remains on high alert as coronavirus cases top a million worldwide

The virus has killed more than 50,000 people globally. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 04 April 2020

Middle East remains on high alert as coronavirus cases top a million worldwide

  • The virus has infected more than 1 million globally

DUBAI: Countries in the Middle East continue to take extra precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, as the virus infects more than one million globally.

The new global figures come as the West struggles with the most number of cases as of Friday – the US leads with more than 245,000 infections.

COVID-19 has killed more than 53,000 people globally.

Friday, April 3 (All times in GMT)

18:43 - Egypt reported 120 new cases of coronavirus on Friday and the death of eight patients.   

18:10 - Thailand has temporarily banned all passenger flights from landing in the country to curb the outbreak of the new coronavirus, the country's aviation agency said on Friday.
The ban on incoming flights came into effect on Friday morning and will run until the end of Monday, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand said in an order published late on Friday.
Anyone arriving on a flight that took off before the order came into effect will need to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in Thailand, the order said.

18:10 - France on Friday reported 588 more coronavirus deaths in hospital, its biggest toll over the last 24 hours since the epidemic began.
The new deaths brought to 5,091 the total number of people who have died in hospital of COVID-19 in France, top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters.
There is no daily toll for those who died of COVID-19 in old people's homes in France. But Salomon said that a total of 1,416 people had died in such establishments from COVID-19 in the epidemic. This brings the total French toll to at least 6,507.

17:52 - The UAE announced 240 new cases of coronavirus and the death of one patient on Friday. 

17:45 -  Turkey imposed a partial curfew for citizens under the age of 20, effective as of midnight on Friday as part of measures against the coronavirus outbreak, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan said.
Ankara also decided to shut down borders of 31 cities for vehicles, excluding essential supplies, to contain the outbreak, Erdogan said, adding that mask usage will be obligatory in crowded places.
In March, Turkey ordered elderly citizens, over 65, and those with chronic diseases to stay at home. 

17:28 - Morocco reported 70 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 761.

16:45 - Turkey's death toll from the coronavirus outbreak increased by 69 to 425 on Friday, while the number of confirmed cases from the disease rose by 2,786 to 20,921.

16:25 - Italy records 766 new coronavirus deaths bringing the total to 14,681 - just higher than the tally of 760 fatalities a day earlier.

16:20 - The Palestinian Territories record 22 coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 193 cases.

16:18 - Algeria records 185 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 1,171 cases.

16:01 - The total number of coronavirus infections in Tunisia reached 495, after 40 new cases were recorded.

15:55 - New York records 562 coronavirus-related deaths in one day. 

15:49 - Qatar announced 126 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 1,074.  

15:45 - A United Nations rights official on Friday voiced concern over prisoners after reports of unrest in facilities prompted by worries over a coronavirus outbreak in countries including Iran, one of the worst-hit in the world.
Iranian media have reported unrest in several prisons, and a mass escape from a facility in the west of the country, despite the temporary release of some 100,000 inmates to curb prison overcrowding.
"As you see in Iran and some other countries, we are seeing riots, prisoners who are afraid, who are distressed at the big loss of contact from family members and so on. So there are many, many issues surrounding this," UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a virtual briefing in Geneva.

14:58 - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Friday renewed his call for a global ceasefire, urging all parties to conflict to lay down arms and allow war-torn nations to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
"The worst is yet to come," Guterres said, referring to countries beset with fighting like Syria, Libya and Yemen.
"The COVID-19 storm is now coming to all these theatres of conflict."
Guterres said there had been some progress following his March 23 call for peace, but that fighting still rages in a number of countries, hampering officials' ability to put into place plans to combat the virus.
"The need is urgent," Guterres said at a UN press conference.
"The virus has shown how swiftly it can move across borders, devastate countries and upend lives."

13:34  Chechnya imposes a curfew to counter the spread of coronavirus.

13:30 – EU issued a statement saying that it is preparing a medical aid package to support Africa against coronavirus, saying that the outbreak in the continent may spiral out of control and that confronting the coronavirus in Africa is part of European security.

13:05  Dubai carrier Emirates it will bring UAE nationals home for free on all flights when services resume next week.

With the start of limited passenger services from Dubai next week, Emirates will bring UAE nationals home for free on all flights. UAE nationals currently stranded overseas can contact their closest UAE embassy for assistance. Emirates stands with the UAE. pic.twitter.com/EDz9EyfUhV

13:05  UK coronavirus death toll rises to 3,605 as of 1600 GMT of April 2, from 2,921 the day before.

12:50  Dutch coronavirus deaths rise to 1,487, while the overall tally of infections rises to 15,723.

11:53 – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is still suffering from fever and will remain in isolation for a while.

WATCH: Arab News reporter Tarek Ali Ahmad reports on the coronavirus situation in London on day 10 of the UK lockdown.


11:29 – Afghanistan has reported 35 new coronavirus cases, raising the total number of infected patients to 274.

10:57 – Bahrain reported 29 new coronavirus cases and one recovery.

10:41 – Morocco said it had 15 new coronavirus recoveries, bringing total to 49.

10:04 – Iran reported 134 new coronavirus deaths, bringing total to 3,294, while cases have reached 53,183.

09:48 – Palestine confirmed 10 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 171.

WATCH: A new London field hospital set up at the Excel London exhibition center is ready to receive first its coronavirus patients.

09:24 – Singapore will close schools and most workplaces, except for essential services and key economic sectors, for a month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday, as part of stricter measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. READ THE STORY

08:34 – Kuwait confirmed 75 new coronavirus cases, bringing total 417.

08:32Philippine health ministry reported 29 new coronavirus deaths, 385 additional infections.

08:06 – Oman said there were 21 new coronavirus, bringing total to 252.

07:47 – Israel recorded 173 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 7,030 including 37 deaths.

07:46 – Russia reported 601 new coronavirus cases and three deaths, bringing total to 1,149 and to 34, respectively.

07:31 – The peak of the United Kingdom’s coronavirus outbreak will be slightly sooner than previously thought and will come in the next few weeks, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

People walk past a message supporting the NHS as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in Britain (Reuters)

07:30 – Morocco reported 27 new coronavirus cases and three deaths, bringing total cases to 735 and raising the death toll to 47.

07:12 – Kuwait has warned citizens not to violate curfew regulations amid the coronavirus outbreak, or face harsh punishments such as deportation for expatriates.

06:48 – The Egyptian Ministry of Interior said it has ordered sterilization procedures for all prison facilities in the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

06:36 – The Dubai Health Authority has extended the use of expired health insurance cards for three months, effective on March 24, state news agency WAM reported.

Men protective face masks in Dubai on March 31, 2020 after the UAE imposed a sweeping crackdown to contain the coronavirus. (AFP)

06:23 – Kuwait has reported one new coronavirus recovery, bringing total to 82.

06:23Abu Dhabi health authorities have reiterated that only two hospitals in the emirate have been designated as facilities for handling coronavirus patients, and also advised residents to report suspected cases to them.

06:01 – The suspension of all passenger and transit flights in the UAE are still in effect, as part of the country’s efforts to tackle the spread of coronavirus, state news agency WAM reported citing the General Civil Aviation Authority.

05:20 – Etihad Airways will resume regular service to several destinations on April 5, but are subject to government approvals, the airlines said in a statement.

05:07 – A curfew in Saudi Arabia’s Dammam, Taif and Qatif will start on Friday 3p.m. until further notice, state news agency SPA reported, citing Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior.

04:58 Thailand on Friday reported 103 new coronavirus cases and four more deaths, bringing its total number cases to 1,978, a health official said.

04:42 Curfew in Saudi Arabia’s Dammam, Taif, and Qatif to start at 3 p.m. local time.

04:33 – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise to 79,696, and deaths to 1,017.

03:32 – Kyrgyzstan has reported the first death due to COVID-19 in the country.

01:55 –  China has reported 31 new cases of coronavirus as of end of April 2 – four cases lower the on previous day. Four new deaths have also been confirmed – two cases lower than previous day. No new cases have been reported in China’s Hubei province, where the virus was first discovered.

Thursday April 2 (All times in GMT)

18:55 – The UAE has confirmed 210 new cases of coronavirus, bringing total to 1,024. A total 35 new recoveries have also been announced, making the number of recoveries rise to 96.


19:53 – Egypt reported 86 new cases of coronavirus bringing the total number of cases to 865. Six people have also died of the virus, with 58 people dying in total.

EU weighs up action against Turkey as relations take a double hit

People walk in front of Hagia Sophia on July 11, 2020 in Istanbul, a day after a top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque. (AFP)
Updated 17 min 46 sec ago

EU weighs up action against Turkey as relations take a double hit

  • Hagia Sophia ‘insult,’ Med drilling come under attack from foreign ministers

JEDDAH: Turkey’s controversial decision to reconvert the Hagia Sophia from museum to mosque has further strained its already tense relationship with the EU.

The issue surrounding the Hagia Sophia — the Byzantine cathedral turned Ottoman mosque turned global tourist attraction — follows a previous dispute between Ankara and the leaders of EU countries over Turkey’s continued energy exploration and drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

These two complicated “hot potatoes” risk further disconnecting Turkey from the EU, and feed a growing mistrust between both parties.

After Monday’s meeting of 27 EU foreign ministers, Josep Borrell, EU foreign affairs chief, who visited Turkey last week to negotiate the eastern Mediterranean disputes, harshly condemned the Hagia Sophia move.

“This decision will inevitably fuel the mistrust, promote renewed division between religious communities, and undermine our efforts at dialogue and cooperation,” he said, urging Turkish authorities to reverse their verdict.

The EU Foreign Affairs Council will also ask its diplomatic European External Action Service to explore options for further measures against Turkey.

In a separate statement on June 10, Borrell said he found the decision regarding Hagia Sophia as “regrettable."

“As a founding member of the Alliance of Civilizations, Turkey has committed to the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue and to fostering tolerance and coexistence,” he said.

Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and now at the Carnegie Europe foundation, told Arab News that there was no tactical justification to take a decision at the EU foreign ministers’ meeting since Turkey’s “adverse narrative is bound to increase in the days and weeks to come.”

He said: “The EU is confronted with a deliberately hostile narrative that has very deep electoral and ideological motivations, but has a clear consequence: To widen the gap between Turkey and the EU.”

According to Pierini, as long as Ankara believes there are more benefits than inconvenience in this strategy, the gap will widen.

“The issue is whether the citizens of Turkey will see a tangible benefit,” he said.

Turkey’s decision to reconvert the Hagia Sophia also angered Pope Francis along with Greek authorities. Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Monday that the EU was “faced with a challenge and an insult.”

However, Karol Wasilewski, a Turkey analyst at the Warsaw-based Polish Institute of International Affairs, believes the Hagia Sophia issue is unlikely to weigh much on EU-Turkey relations compared with other problems in the relationship.

“As the EU has no leverage over Turkey’s domestic policy, it clearly can’t influence Turkey’s stance on the Hagia Sophia issue,” he said.

However, the international criticism concerning the Hagia Sophia and drilling in the eastern Mediterranean drilling appears to carry little weight with Turkish authorities who view the attacks as an intervention into Turkey’s sovereign rights, while Ankara considers drilling in the region as a move to protect its national interests.

At Monday’s meeting, Greece insisted that the presence of Turkish drilling vessels violates international law, and should trigger political, financial and diplomatic sanctions.

Brussels views any attempt to weaken Greece’s borders and rights as an equal affront to the EU, Borrell said on June 27.

The ministers are set to meet again next month in Berlin to discuss both issues.

Wasilewski believes Turkey is prepared for any escalation on the Mediterranean issue, with Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, seeking to blame Cyprus for the dispute.

Cavusoglu has accused Cyprus of being the “real culprit” of the eastern Mediterranean’s energy issue, saying: “They embarked on their seismic research activities by ignoring the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people.”