Middle East countries return stranded citizens, as coronavirus cases rise

Middle East countries return stranded citizens, as coronavirus cases rise
A health worker takes a body temperature reading from a driver inside a vehicle at a drive-through COVID-19 coronavirus testing centre in al-Khawaneej district of the gulf emirate of Dubai on April 9, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 April 2020

Middle East countries return stranded citizens, as coronavirus cases rise

Middle East countries return stranded citizens, as coronavirus cases rise
  • The UAE’s health ministry has confirmed that 370 people have tested positive for coronavirus

Middle East countries have started repatriating citizens from coronavirus hotspots amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which infected more than 1.5 million people globally.

Saudi Arabia has returned 250 Saudi nationals from Jakarta on Friday, where they arrived in King Khalid International Airport, state news agency SPA reported.

Saturday, April 11 (All times in GMT)

17:20 - A World Health Organization (WHO) official on Saturday urged Belarus to impose new measures to contain the new coronavirus, out of concern that the outbreak in the country has entered a worrying new phase.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has held power in the former Soviet nation of 9.5 million people since 1994, has in recent weeks downplayed the need for social distancing and other measures to stem the spread of the virus.

He has said that drinking vodka, driving tractors and bathing in a sauna could help fight it, and he has been shown playing ice hockey matches and embracing other players.

17:00 - Turkey's coronavirus death toll rises by 95 to 1,101 with 5,138 new cases confirmed.

16:10 - The United States overtook Italy on Saturday to become the country with the largest death toll in the coronavirus pandemic, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The outbreak has now claimed the lives of at least 18,860, people in the US, which also leads the world in the number of confirmed infections with 503,594, by the Baltimore-based school's count.

Italy has registered 18,849 deaths according to an AFP tally based on official counts, but with a population of around 60 million it is less than a fifth the size of the US.

15:56 -  Britain's interior minister said on Saturday she was sorry if health workers felt there had been failings to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to the front line.

Doctors and nurses have complained that there have been PPE shortages for frontline staff and when asked directly if she would apologise for this, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: "I am sorry if people feel there have been failings."

"It is inevitable that the demand and pressures on PPE and the demand for PPE are going to be exponential, they are going to be incredibly high," she said.

15:44 - New York reported 783 deaths from coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 8,627.

15:30 - Paedophiles are seeking to exploit the fact that children are increasingly going online to meet friends and do school lessons on their computers during the coronavirus crisis, Britain's interior minister Priti Patel said on Saturday. 

13:38The death toll from coronavirus in the United Kingdom rose by 917 to 9,875 people as of 1600 GMT on April 10, health officials said on Saturday. 

13:16 - UAE Health Ministry reported 170 cases of coronavirus recoveries on Saturday bringing the total number of recoveries to 588, and the total number of infections to 3,736.

13:00 - Saudi Arabia announced 382 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the Kingdom to 4,033. 

12:40 - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is making very good progress in his recovery from COVID-19, his office said on Saturday, as his health minister said the peak of the outbreak in Britain had not yet been reached.

The death toll in British hospitals from the virus has reached almost 9,000, with 980 more deaths reported on Friday. That figure exceeded the deadliest day so far in Italy, which has been the country with the most fatalities so far.

11:24 - Qatar's ministry of health recorded 216 new cases of coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 2,512. 

10:40 – Iraq’s Anbar province has extended its curfew until April 18 amid the coronavirus outbreak.

10:18 – 10 more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Lebanon, raising total to 619, Lebanon's health ministry said.

09:57 Iran’s new coronavirus death toll has risen to 4,357 with 125 new deaths, a health official in Iran said. The country's total number of people infected has reached 70,029, he added.

09:38Spain’s daily coronavirus death toll fell for the third day in a row after 510 fatalities were reported in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said in a statement, marking the smallest overnight increase since March 23.

09:20 – Belgium has confirmed that 327 people have died from COVID19, while there has been 1,351 new cases recorded.

09:17 Malaysian health authorities reported 184 additional confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, raising the cumulative tally to 4,530, the highest number for any country in Southeast Asia.

09:12 – Indonesian health ministry said 330 more people have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing total to 3,842.

08:40 – UK health minister Matt Hancock said the country has not yet reached the COVID-19 peak required before the government will consider easing restrictions of movement

06:30 – Oman recorded 62 new coronavirus infections, bring the total number of infections to 484. 

05:36 – 10 more people have recovered from coronavirus in Kuwait, bringing total to 133. The country has also confirmed 161 new coronavirus patients, raising total to 1,154.

05:15 - A further 26 people died on Saturday in the Philippines, raising the total number of fatalities to 247. The number of infected rose to 4,428 – but there has also been 157 recoveries.

01:14 – Uruguay evacuated 112 Australians and New Zealanders from a cruise ship that has been anchored off the South American country’s coast since March 27 with more than half its passengers and crew infected with the coronavirus. Officials say the evacuees will be flown to Australia early Saturday.

Friday, April 10

18:37 –The UAE’s health ministry has confirmed that 370 people have tested positive for coronavirus, raising the total to 3,360, state news agency WAM reported.

The ministry also recorded two more deaths, bringing the total death toll in the country to 16.

13:59 - Oman’s foreign ministry coordinated with the Omani embassy in Kuwait to repatriate 29 of its citizens back to the Sultanate, state news agency ONA said.


Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
Updated 26 January 2021

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
  • Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy

BEIRUT: The closure and curfew period in Lebanon has been extended for two more weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prompting people in Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon to take to the streets.

The protests were spontaneous, considering that the neighborhoods from which they started are poor, where the residents work for daily wages.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Tourism in the caretaker government Ramzi Musharrafieh said on Tuesday that “230,000 families in Lebanon benefit from aid and have been receiving 400,000 Lebanese pounds ($263) per month since the beginning of the crisis.” He added that “25 percent of the Lebanese people do not need aid.”

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy and the failure to provide people with alternatives.

One of the protesters said: “Contracting COVID-19 and dying of it is easier than having my family and myself starve to death.”

Protesters in Tripoli took to Al-Nour Square on Monday after days of expressing their impatience and protesting outside the houses of the city’s officials.

One of the protesters said: “COVID-19 does not scare us. We cannot tolerate this life of humiliation anymore. The officials in power have starved and robbed us.”

The protesters clashed with the security forces — the army and the Internal Security Forces — hurling stones and water bottles at them. 

Their chants demanded financial compensation for the poorest families, who have not been able to work for two weeks and must wait a further two weeks before they can return to their jobs, resulting in a whole month without any financial income.

The protests spiralled out of control and turned into riots that ended with dozens of arrests. Several army personnel were deployed to control the situation in Al-Nour Square and its vicinity. Riot police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it brought in six ambulances as 41 people were injured during the protests. The organization transferred 12 people to hospitals, while 29 were treated at the scene.

In support of the Tripoli protests, dozens gathered at the Ring Bridge in central Beirut.

Activists gathered in Sidon’s Elia Square for a vigil, amid security measures. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the political authority’s arbitrary decisions, which they argue worsened the economic collapse. 

Some protesters said that 60 percent of the poor people in Lebanon are suffering because of these decisions, which were not accompanied with support for people who were laid off due to lockdown measures.

The protests extended to Taalbaya in the Bekaa and the coastal town of Jiyeh. The protesters moved from the poor neighborhoods of Beirut to Corniche el Mazraa and blocked the road, but the riot police reopened it.

Bechara Al-Asmar, head of the General Labor Union, told Arab News: “Things are heading toward chaos, and the authorities’ decisions are ill-considered. When forcing people to stop working, it is important to give them incentives and compensation. There are 120,000 daily workers impacted by the closure, which has come amid a severe economic crisis.”

He added: “They must exempt the factories that suspended production so that they can survive and not lay off their workers if the closure results in stopping operation. 

“What can the factories that have agreements with clients abroad do to deliver their products? This is the only sector that is bringing Lebanon fresh money and giving people jobs.”

Al-Asmar said that aid provided by the government “covers 47,000 families, and a further 8,000 taxi drivers have been added to them. This is a small percentage compared to the need among the general population.”

He continued: “Employees are now receiving half a salary or a very meager salary if they don’t lose their jobs as employers prefer shutting down their businesses to continuous losses.”

Bechara added: “We are facing a major social crisis. The daily workers are complaining of their inability to put bread on the table, while the state is unable to hold coordination meetings, so how can it provide compensation for those affected?”