LIVE: Mideast reports growing cases of coronavirus as more containment measures announced

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Members of the Iranian Red Crescent test people for coronavirus Covid-19 symptoms, as police blocked Tehran to Alborz highway to check every car following orders by the Iranian government, outside Tehran on March 26, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 04 April 2020

LIVE: Mideast reports growing cases of coronavirus as more containment measures announced

  • The UAE’s National Sterilization Program will be extended across the UAE

DUBAI: Countries in the Middle East continue to report more infections of COVID-19, as governments launch different programs to curb its spread.

The virus has infected over 1.1 million people in the world, with the US topping the list of countries with the most number of infections at nearly 80,000.

Saturday, April 4 (All times in GMT)

20:38 - Abu Dhabi extended on Saturday the temporary closure of commercial centres, shopping malls, cinemas, arcades and other places of entertainment in the emirate until further notice to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

20:00 - The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States has topped 300,000 and there have been more than 8,100 deaths, Johns Hopkins University reported on Saturday.
The Baltimore-based university, which has been keeping a running tally of global coronavirus numbers, said there are at least 300,915 confirmed virus cases in the US and there have been 8,162 deaths.

19:26 - Algeria will extend curfews it has put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus from Sunday, the prime minister said on Saturday, as the number of confirmed cases rose to 1,251.
The curfew will last from 3 p.m. until 7 a.m. in the capital Algiers and eight other provinces, and from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. in most of the others. The two southernmost provinces, which are almost entirely desert, have no confirmed cases and will not be under curfew.

18:32 - Tunisia's parliament on Saturday ceded some powers to the North African country's government for two months to help it handle the coronavirus crisis and the expected economic fallout.
The decision, backed by all political parties, will allow Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh's government to issue decrees, strike purchasing agreements and seek finance without consulting parliament.

18:15 - Jordan announced 13 new coronavirus cases in the country on Saturday bringing the total number of cases to 323. 

18:10 - Dubai announced that its metro service would be suspended as of Sunday to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

17:58 - France on Saturday reported 441 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, lower than the record number of 588 the previous day.
This brought the total to 7,560 deaths since the epidemic began, top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters. Of these, 5,532 died in hospital.

17:30 - Oman announced a second death from coronavirus on Saturday. 

17:25 - Dubai announced a two week lockdown to disinfect the city around the clock on Saturday. 

17:20 - Confirmed coronavirus cases in Turkey rose by more than 3,000 to 23,934 on Saturday with deaths related to COVID-19 rising by 76 to 501 people, Heath Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.
In the last 24 hours, 19,664 tests were conducted bringing the total performed in Turkey so far to 161,380, Koca, said

16:34 - Qatar records 250 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total to 1,325.

16:25 - Total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy rises to 124,632 from 119,827 on Friday, with deaths rising by 681 to 15,362.

16:10 - Algeria records 80 new coronavirus infections and 25 new deaths, brinign the total tallies to 1,251 cases and 130 deaths.

15:49 - The conspiracy theory that 5G mobile telecommunications masts play a role in spreading the novel coronavirus is disgusting fake news and completely false, Britain said on Saturday.
"That is just nonsense, dangerous nonsense as well," British Cabinet Officer Minister Michael Gove, when asked about the theory by a reporter.
NHS England's national medical director, Stephen Powis, said the “theory” was complete nonsense.
"The 5G story is complete and utter rubbish, it's nonsense, it's the worst kind of fake news," Powis said. "The reality is that the mobile phone networks are absolutely critical to all of us, particularly at a time when we are asking people to stay at home."
"Those are also the phone networks that are used by our emergency services and our health workers and I'm absolutely outraged, absolutely disgusted that people would be taking action against the very infrastructure that we need to respond to this health emergency," Powis said. 

15:44 - It will take a week or two before Britain's social distancing measures start to translate into lower hospitalisation rates but there has been a bit of a plateauing in London in recent days, NHS England Medical Director Stephen Powis said.
"There is reason to be hopeful that some of the changes we are observing in infections and perhaps in hospitalisations is now reflecting the benefit of the social distancing," he told a news conference.
"It will be a week or two before the measures that are put in place translate into lower hospitalisation rates. But ... in London in the last few days there has been a bit of a plateauing in terms of numbers." 

NHS England Medical Director Professor Stephen Powis (L) and Britain's Michael Gove (R) hold a remote coronavirus press conference at 10 Downing Street on April 4, 2020. (AFP)

15:28 - Britain took delivery of 300 ventilators from China on Saturday and more will start being produced soon by a consortium of aerospace, engineering and Formula One teams, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said.
"We've been buying invasive ventilators from partners abroad, including Germany and Switzerland, and today 300 new ventilators arrived from China, I'd like to thank the Chinese government," he told a news conference. 

15:15 - British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said his thoughts went out to the family of a 5-year-old child who died in hospital after being infected with the novel coronavirus.
The United Kingdom's hospital death toll from the coronavirus rose by 20% to 4,313 at 1600 GMT on April 3, the health ministry said.

14:30 - Britain is temporarily releasing about 4,000 inmates to ease crowding and try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus in prisons.
The Ministry of Justice says “low-risk” offenders will be freed with electronic tags. People guilty of violent or sexual offenses or terrorism will not be eligible for release.
Pregnant prisoners or those with infants have also been approved for release.
Britain has one of the largest prison populations in western Europe with more than 80,000 people behind bars. Many prisons hold far more inmates than they were built for.
According to official figures, 88 inmates and 15 prison staff have tested positive for COVID-19. Three prisoners are reported to have died.

14:25 - Egypt postpones opening of new administrative capital and Grand Egyptian Museum to 2021 from 2020 due to coronavirus.

13:55 - More than 60,000 people have died worldwide from coronavirus so far. 

13:15 - UK announces 3,735 new coronavirus cases and 708 new deaths, bringing total tallies to 41,903 and 4,313 respectively.

13:05 - UAE announces 241 new coronavirus cases and one new death, bringing total tallies to 1,505 and 10 respectively.

12:50 – Saudi Arabia records 140 new cases of coronavirus infections and 4 new deaths, brining total positive infections to 2,179 and total deaths to 29.

11:54 – Spain has extended its state of emergency until April 26 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

10:04 – France has reported more than 7,000 coronavirus cases in one day.

09:48 – The number of coronavirus cases in Iran has reached about 56,000 with death toll rising to almost 3,500.

09:44 – Spain has recorded 7,000 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours. The number of deaths in the country has reached 11,744.

09:37 – Malaysia has reported four new coronavirus deaths and 150 cases, bringing the total number of infected patients to 3,500.

09:21 – Egypt's Awqaf ministry has denied reports of return of prayer in mosques next week.

09:21 – Lebanon has reported 12 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 520.

09:12 – Belgium has reported 1,661 coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infected patients to 18,431.

09:10 – Bahrain’s Gulf Air said transit flights are open again for passengers through Bahrain Airport. The entry to the country is restricted to citizens and residents, the airline added.

08:32 – Russia has recorded nine new coronavirus deaths, raising death toll to 43.

08:31 – Palestine has reported 11 new coronavirus cases of workers arriving from Israel. The total number of infected cases is 205.

08:07 – Morocco has confirmed 53 new coronavirus cases, raising total to 844

08:06 – Oman health ministry has reported 25 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to 277.

06:18 – Kuwait health ministry has announced the recovery of 11 coronavirus patients, bringing total of those recovered to 93. The country has also reported its first coronavirus death and confirmed 62 new cases, bringing the total number of infected patients to 479.

03:34 – China came to a standstill to mourn patients and medical staff killed by the coronavirus, as the world’s most populous country observed a nationwide three-minute silence.

At 10 am (0200 GMT), citizens paused, cars, trains and ships sounded their horns, and air-raid sirens rang out in memory of the more than 3,000 lives claimed by the virus in China.

01:15 – Mexico’s health ministry said that the number of people who have died of coronavirus in the country has risen to 60, up from 50 a day earlier. It registered a total of 1,688 coronavirus cases, up from 1,510.

Friday, April 3 (All times in GMT)

08:45 – The UAE’s National Sterilization Program will be extended across the UAE, state news agency WAM reported on Friday citing the Ministry of Health and Prevention and the Ministry of Interior.

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.