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.

 


Amid crippling sanctions, Iran traders seek lifeline in Iraq

Amid crippling sanctions, Iran traders seek lifeline in Iraq
Updated 17 min 28 sec ago

Amid crippling sanctions, Iran traders seek lifeline in Iraq

Amid crippling sanctions, Iran traders seek lifeline in Iraq
  • 24 businesses from 15 Iranian cities set shop away from country’s economy hit by crippling sanctions

DOHUK, Iraq: Piles of plush carpets line the floors of a northern Iraq shopping center hosting traders from neighboring Iran who hope the spangle of their ornate handicrafts might offer a lifeline out of poverty.
In their own country, the economy is in tatters amid crippling US sanctions.
“Our money is so devalued, so when we come to this side — apart from the cultural exchange that we share — from a financial perspective it’s more profitable for us,” said Iranian Ramiyar Parwiz, the organizer of the exhibition who is originally from Sanandaj. “The money we receive … whether in dollars or dinars has a higher value on our side and it’s worth a lot.”
At least 24 businesses from 15 Iranian cities set up shop this week in the city of Dohuk in the Kurdish-run northern region of Iraq. From Sanandaj to Bijar, they brought luxurious carpets. From Isfahan, Yazd and Hamadan, precious gems, copper and pottery.
Iran is among Iraq’s largest trading partners and this cooperation has deepened since 2018 amid the Trump administration’s maximalist policy on Iran that has seen the US pull out of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and levy punishing sanctions on the country.
Tens of thousands of Iranian pilgrims visit sites in Najaf and Karbala every year, boosting Iraq’s fledgling tourism sector. Over 100 trucks ferry construction materials, food, medicine and appliances into Iraq every day.
The dependence on Iraqi markets has only deepened as economic conditions worsen in Iran. US sanctions bar American companies and foreign firms from dealing with Iran affecting Iran’s energy, shipping and financial sectors, causing foreign investment to dry up.

HIGHLIGHT

This is the first year the traders have ventured to Dohuk, which shares closer economic ties to neighboring Turkey, in hopes of enticing new customers and creating greater demand for Iranian goods.

Oil exports have been hardest hit and Iran’s economy contracted with dreary forecasts for the future. Unemployment rose and rural populations were disproportionately affected.
The exhibition of Iranian businesses is typically held every year in the city of Sulimaniyah, which borders Iran. This is the first year the traders have ventured to Dohuk, which shares closer economic ties to neighboring Turkey, in hopes of enticing new customers and creating greater demand for Iranian goods.
Parwiz said the Dohuk venture was the result of desperation.
“There is huge pressure on people (in Iran), and the cost of living is unimaginably high,” he said. “We can’t afford to buy anything, we cannot even afford to buy medicine.”
For Iranian businessmen experiencing difficult times, Iraq has always offered hope for respite.
Hajji Tousi, a businessman from Mashhad, sells his fine carpets at a lower price than local Iraqi traders. He knows the dollars he takes back home to Iran will keep him afloat.
“The type of carpet we are selling here is $200, whereas the same carpet in the market here is sold for $300-350,” he said.
But, to the dismay of many Iranian traders, the impact of Iraq’s own economic troubles was in plain sight: The exhibition attracts crowds of visitors but many can’t afford the marked-down items.
“There are many visitors who have warmly welcomed this expo but economic problems have kept them from (purchasing),” said Maryam Mradi, a businesswoman from Sanadaj.
Iraq is grappling with an unprecedented liquidity crisis brought on by low oil prices. That has slashed state coffers in half and led the government to borrow from the central bank’s foreign currency reserves to make salary payments.
Some of the Iranian vendors were skeptical their goods would be well received in Dohuk and other areas of Iraq, where Turkish brands dominate shopping isles.
“The people’s demand is mainly for Turkish goods,” said Shireen Mohammed, a local resident.