Middle East on alert for spike in coronavirus infections as restrictions ease 

Worshippers wearing protective face masks queue to enter the Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque in the Lebanese capital Beirut's downtown district, to perform the Friday prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, after some measures that were taken by the authorities in a bid to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus were eased, on May 8, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 12 May 2020

Middle East on alert for spike in coronavirus infections as restrictions ease 

DUBAI: Turkey’s senior citizens got their first chance to venture outside on Sunday under relaxed restrictions, while Lebanon extended its nightly curfew amid a spike in coronavirus cases, as countries across the region ease measures.  
Turkish citizens aged 65 and over were allowed out of quarantine after seven weeks of self-isolation as part of a rolling program of reduced controls. 
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s health minister criticized people for practicing a “semi-normal life” despite the pandemic. The daily report from the Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 cases had risen to 845 following 36 new cases.
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmy said the curfew period at night would begin earlier, at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., and run until 5 a.m.
Monday (GMT time)

17:33 - The IMF board approved $2.77 billion in emergency aid for Egypt, to help the country deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

16:18 - Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways said starting from May 15, passengers in Australia who need to travel to the UK will be able to book flights from Melbourne to London with transit via Abu Dhabi.

The carrier also said that from May 21, passengers in the UK wishing to travel to Australia can book flights from London to Melbourne with transit via Abu Dhabi.

15:56 - Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy rose by 179, against 165 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, as the daily tally of new cases fell to 744 from 802 on Sunday.
The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 30,739 the agency said, the third highest in the world after those of the United States and Britain.
The total number of confirmed cases amounted to 219,814, the fifth highest global tally behind those of the US, Spain, Britain and Russia.

15:42 - New York's statewide coronavirus deaths increased by 161 on May 10, vs. 207 deaths a day earlier, and the total coronavirus hospitalizations fell further from 7,262 a day earlier, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

15:30 - Jordan’s cabinet decided to allow civil servants to return to work on May 26 following a break of around two months imposed as part of measures to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, the government spokesman said.
Amjad al Adailah said that the civil servants, who comprise the bulk of Jordan’s public sector, would return after a three-day Muslim Eid holiday that will mark the end of Ramadan.

15:06 - Canada's total coronavirus cases rose to 69,156 from 67,996 on May 10, with 4,906 deaths, up from 4,728, according to the country's Public Health Agency data.
13:06 - Britain’s COVID-19 death toll has risen by 210 to 32,065, according to figures announced by the Department of Health.
The figures, collated by government agency Public Health England and equivalents in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, comprise deaths in all settings following positive coronavirus tests and cover the period up to 1600 GMT on Sunday.

10:00 - Yemeni authorities declared Aden, an “infested” city on Monday after the number of coronavirus cases there jumped and clashes erupted elsewhere in the south between separatists and government forces.
08:39 - Asian equity markets rallied Monday as traders looked past a staggering jump in US job losses to focus on governments easing virus lockdown measures and data showing death rates falling in some of the worst-hit countries.

08:38 - Tokyo confirmed 15 new cases of coronavirus infection on Monday, the first time in 42 days that the daily number has fallen below 20, Fuji TV reported the same day.

08:37 - More than 4.13 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 281,778 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

08:33 - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's statement on unwinding the coronavirus lockdown was confusing and he dumbfounded many people, leading trade union leader Len McCluskey said on Monday. "The prime minister's response last night was both confusing and almost disbelieving," McCluskey, generate secretary of the Unite union, told BBC radio.

08:31 - Belgium is taking a major step in relaxing its coronavirus lockdown by opening shops under strict conditions. Even still, public transportation in the capital city of Brussels was hit by a strike because bus drivers didn’t feel safe under the current virus precautions.

08:30 - The UAE said it had no plans to increase its value-added tax rate, according to its finance minister speaking on news channel Al Arabiya TV, after Saudi Arabia said it would triple its rate.

08:29 - France could reverse the relaxation of its nationwide lockdown if there was a resurgence of the new coronavirus outbreak, Health Minister Olivier Veran warned on Monday. "If the virus were to resume its wild race, we would again take lockdown measures," Veran told BFM television.

08:28 - India reported its biggest daily increase in cases Monday as it prepares to gradually resume train service while easing its virus lockdown.
India’s train network was stopped in late March as a national lockdown was imposed on the country of 1.3 billion people.

08:22 - Europe's main stock markets climbed at the start of trading on Monday, as Britain set out a path for easing its lockdown and eurozone nations began lifting their own restrictions.

08:05 - Visitors in face masks streamed into Shanghai Disneyland as the theme park reopened Monday in a high-profile step toward reviving tourism that was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. The House of Mouse’s experience in Shanghai, the first of its parks to reopen, foreshadows hurdles global leisure industries might face.
08:04 - South Korean officials scrambled on Monday to contain a new coronavirus outbreak, searching for thousands of people who may have been infected in a cluster of cases linked to nightclubs and bars in the densely populated capital city of Seoul.
07:55 - Ukraine's troubled health care system has been overwhelmed by COVID-19, even though it has reported a relatively low number of cases — 15,232 infections and 391 deaths as of Sunday. Ukrainian medical workers are forced to work in homemade protective masks and suits, with plastic bags over their shoes. A hospital intended for 150 coronavirus patients now holds 250. While a lack of filtration systems forces staff to carry out autopsies outside.

07:45 - Kazakhstan is keeping its provinces and major cites locked down, the authorities said on Monday, and will reopen businesses gradually after a state of emergency introduced in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic elapsed.

07:43 - New Zealand businesses including malls, cinemas, cafes and gyms will reopen on Thursday after some of the tightest restrictions in the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus were further loosened on Monday.


Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

Pedestrians, wearing face masks, walk in a street of Ankara on November 20, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2020

Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

  • 20% of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return
  • No PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers entering the country. It is a very big mistake

ANKARA: Unofficial sources have warned that numbers of COVID-19 cases in Turkey are skyrocketing.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) estimated that daily COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 47,500, of which about 12,500 are in Istanbul. This would represent a 300 percent increase in November compared to the month before.

According to official data, however, Turkey recorded 5,103 new COVID-19 patients on Nov. 20 — the second highest new daily figure since March — and its highest daily death toll with 141 fatalities.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu announced that 186 people died from “infectious diseases” in the city on Nov. 22 — more than the official countrywide death toll. (The Turkish health ministry is accused of classifying some COVID-related deaths as "infection-related deaths")

The TTB, whose data drew on figures from 1,270 medics in 76 provinces, claimed that someone in Turkey dies from COVID-19 every 10 minutes. It declared that “they have lost control of the pandemic.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms. Following this admission Turkey was put on the UK’s quarantine-on-arrival list in early October.

BACKGROUND

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms.

Reports drawing on Israeli health ministry data say that 20 percent of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return home, which experts consider a worryingly high figure.

Everyone arriving in Israel is obliged to self-isolate for 14 days. There is no such an obligation in Turkey.

“The countries which prove successful in managing the pandemic are those that apply strict quarantine rules and rigorously regulate arrivals in the country. But this is not the case in Turkey nowadays,” said Guner Sonmez, a radiologist from Uskudar University in Istanbul.

“Only one case can again trigger a whole chain of contagion and begin a new wave of pandemic. However, no PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers who enter the country. It is a very big mistake for managing the dynamics of the pandemic.”

Turkey recently re-introduced a partial evening curfew and restrictions on the weekends, although scientists have been urging a full 14-day lockdown.