Parts of Middle East prepares for Eid lockdown as coronavirus toll continues to rise 

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Updated 19 May 2020

Parts of Middle East prepares for Eid lockdown as coronavirus toll continues to rise 

DUBAI: Egypt announced a curfew starting from 5 p.m. and a halt to public transport from May 24 for six days during the Eid holiday, as it seeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Egypt’s announcement follow’s Saudi Arabia’s decision to introduce a curfew across the country to contain the coronavirus during the Eid holidays, from May 23 until May 27.

The decision comes after a sharp rise in infections.

Jordan will also restrict movement of vehicles on the first day of Eid Al-Fitr.

Meanwhile, Iran faces a potentially lethal “second wave” of coronavirus infections as the official death toll surged toward 7,000.

Monday (GMT time)

20:27 - US President Donald Trump said he has taken unproven malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to prevent symptoms should he get coronavirus.

18:04 - Canada's total confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 77,306 from 76,204 on May 17; with 5,805 deaths, up from 5,702, according to Public Health Agency data.

17:40 - The UAE is expanding nightly curfew by two hours starting Wednesday until further notice - official.

17:33 - Syria’s health minister told the World Health Organization on Monday that “coercive and unfair” Western sanctions were hitting medical services trying to cope with coronavirus in his war-torn country and called for their removal.

17:30 - The United Arab Emirates will extend a nightly curfew by two hours starting this week after reporting an increase in the number of novel coronavirus cases, an official said.
The curfew, which currently runs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., would start at 8 p.m. as of Wednesday until further notice, Saif Al Dhaheri, spokesman for the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, told a news conference.

17:09 - Egypt recorded 535 new coronavirus infections and 15 deaths.

17:06 - The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States exceeded 1.5 million, as total deaths caused by the new coronavirus approached 90,000, according to a Reuters tally of state and county figures.

16:30 - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that a four-day lockdown starting on May 23 would be imposed nationwide as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus during the Eid Al-Fitr religious holiday.

16:06 - Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy climbed by 99, against 145 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, registering the first tally of below 100 since March 9.
New cases increased by just 451 against 675 on Sunday, the lowest daily figure since March 2.

16:02 - Uber announced it is cutting a quarter of its global workforce and trimming investment to survive the financial hit to its business from the coronavirus pandemic.
The San Francisco-based company is laying off about 3,000 people and stopping some investments unrelated to its core ride-share and delivery businesses, according to chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.

15:52 - The number of people who have died in the United Kingdom after testing positive for COVID-19 rose by 160 to 34,796, the health department said on Twitter.
A total of 246,406 people have tested positive for the virus, up 2,684. 

15:40 - New York's statewide coronavirus deaths increased by 106 vs. 139 deaths a day earlier, and the total coronavirus hospitalizations down slightly on May 17 from 5,897 a day earlier, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

15:09 - Spain’s overnight death toll from the coronavirus was 59, the lowest figure in two months, the government said.
The cumulative death toll rose to 27,709, while the number of confirmed cases rose to 231,606 on Monday from 231,350 the previous day, according to health ministry figures.
Figures include data for more than 24 hours as the ministry changed its methods on Monday. It was the second day in a row that deaths were under 100.

15:00 -  US Health Secretary Alex Azar tells World Health Organization (WHO) assembly that there was an "apparent attempt" by at least one member state of concealing the outbreak - he does not name China. Also says WHO did not obtain the correct information the world so desperately needed in its bid to fight the coronavirus.

He adds that WHO's failings "cost many lives" and can never happen again, and that the world needs a more effective WHO at the moment.

14:30 - The global economy will take much longer to recover fully from the shock caused by the new coronavirus than initially expected, the head of the International Monetary Fund said, and she stressed the danger of protectionism.
Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said the Fund was likely to revise downward its forecast for a 3% contraction in GDP in 2020, with only a partial recovery expected next year instead of the 5.8% rebound initially expected.

14:40 - Morocco is to extend its national lockdown to contain the spread of the new coronavirus until June 10, Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani said.
Morocco had confirmed 6,930 coronavirus cases, including 192 deaths, by Monday morning, as the rise of hotspots within families and factories complicates efforts to curb infections.

13:45 - An oversight body backs a review of World Health Organization's performance and nations' actions during the coronavirus pandemic, but warns that conducting it during the heat of the response could disrupt its ability to respond effectively.

It said the "rising politicization of the pandemic response" was impeding the defeat of the virus" adding that "WHO cannot succeed without unified global political support."

11:55 - Qatar confirmed 1,365 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infected people to 33,969.

11:48 - Morocco confirmed 60 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infected people to 6,930

11:45 - Kuwait confirmed 841 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infected people to 15,691.

11:41 - The World Health Organisation’s DrTedros said countries that moved too fast easing COVID-19 preventative measures without putting in place public health architecture run a real risk of handicapping their own recovery.

11:17 - China’s President Xi Jinping said the country was transparent about the coronavirus since its discovery, and added that China would make a coronavirus vaccine a ‘global public good.’

10:29 - Iraq’s PM Mustafa Al-Kadhimi announced the start of a lockdown in five cities across Baghdad’s province as of Wednesday for two weeks to curb the spread of coronavirus.

09:52 - Egyptair says a government loan will allow the company to pay employee's salaries

08:41 - Kuwait confirmed 246 new coronavirus recoveries, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 4,339.

08:00 - Greece reopened the Acropolis in Athens and all open-air archaeological sites in the country to the public on Monday after a two-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

07:59 - Australia’s foreign minister on Monday welcomed international support for an independent investigation of the coronavirus pandemic, a proposed inquiry that has been condemned by China and blamed for a bilateral trade rift.

07:48 - Oman confirmed 193 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infected people to 5,379

07:41 - Russia confirmed 8,926 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infected people to 290,678
07:35 - Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O’Leary said the British government had mismanaged its response to the COVID-19 outbreak for many weeks and its policy of a 14-day quarantine for international travelers was idiotic. 
“It is idiotic and it is unimplementable,” O’Leary told BBC radio. “This is the same government that has... mismanaged the crisis for many weeks.”
07:33 – Hungary’s government will submit a proposal to parliament on May 26 to end its special coronavirus emergency powers, quoted Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff as saying late on Sunday.
07:30 - Restaurants and churches will reopen in Italy on Monday as part of a fresh wave of lockdown easing in Europe, but rising coronavirus death tolls in Brazil, South Africa and other parts of the world showed the worst is still to come in many countries.

Private schools and universities in Lebanon are in economic crisis

Updated 22 min 44 sec ago

Private schools and universities in Lebanon are in economic crisis

  • Education centers risk closing or reducing costs after nationwide disruption

BEIRUT: The future of thousands of Lebanese students is at stake as private educational institutions assess their ability to continue operations in the next academic year, due to the economic crunch facing Lebanon.

“If the economic situation continues, private schools will be forced to close down for good, a move that will affect more than 700,000 students, 59,000 teachers and 15,000 school administrators,” said Father Boutros Azar, secretary-general of the General Secretariat of Catholic Schools in Lebanon, and coordinator of the Association of Private Educational Institutions in Lebanon.

Over 1,600 private schools are operating in Lebanon, including free schools and those affiliated to various religion societies, Azar said.

The number of public schools in Lebanon, he added, is 1,256, serving 328,000 students from the underprivileged segment of society and 200,000 Syrian refugee students.

“The number of teachers in the formal education sector is 43,500 professors and teachers — 20,000 of them are permanent staff and the rest work on a contract basis,” Azar said.

This development will also have an impact on private universities, whose number has increased to 50 in the past 20 years.

Ibrahim Khoury, a special adviser to the president of the American University of Beirut (AUB), told Arab News: “All universities in Lebanon are facing an unprecedented crisis, and the message of AUB President Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri, a few weeks ago, was a warning about the future of university education in light of the economic crisis that Lebanon is facing.”

Khoury said many universities would likely reduce scientific research and dispense with certain specializations.

“Distance education is ongoing, but classes must be opened for students in the first semester of next year, but we do not yet know what these classes are.”

Khoury added: “Universities are still following the official exchange rate of the dollar, which is 1,512 Lebanese pounds (LBP), but the matter is subject to future developments.”

Lebanese parents are also worried about the future of their children, after the current school year ended unexpectedly due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Dr. Tarek Majzoub, the minister of education and higher education, ended the academic year in public schools and gave private schools the right to take a call on this issue.

He said: “The coming academic year will witness intensification of lessons and a review of what students have missed.”

But what sort of academic year should students expect?

Differences have developed between school owners, parents, and teachers over the payment of tuition fees and teachers’ salaries.

Azar said: “What I know so far is that 80 percent of the Catholic schools in Lebanon will close their doors next year unless they are financially helped. Some families today are unable to pay the rest of the dues for the current year either because their breadwinners were fired or not working, while others do not want to pay dues because schools remain closed due to the pandemic.

“Lebanese people chose private schools for their children because they trusted them for their quality — 70 percent of Lebanese children go to private schools. Today, we are facing a major crisis, and I say that if education collapses in Lebanon, then the area surrounding Lebanon will collapse. Many Arab students from the Gulf states receive their education in the most prestigious Lebanese schools,” he added.

“What we are witnessing today is that the educational contract is no longer respected. It can be said that what broke the back of school owners is the approval by the Lebanese parliament in 2018 of a series of ranks and salaries that have bankrupted the state treasury and put all institutions in a continuous deficit.”

Those in charge of formal education expect a great rush for enrollment in public schools and universities, but the ability of these formal institutions to absorb huge numbers of students is limited.

Majzoub said that his ministry was “working on proposing a law to help private schools provide a financial contribution for each learner within the available financial capabilities or grants that can be obtained.”

The undersecretary of the Teachers’ Syndicate in Private Schools, former government minister Ziad Baroud, said: “The crisis of remaining student fees and teachers’ salaries needs to be resolved by special legislation in parliament that regulates the relationship between all parties — teachers, parents, and schools — and takes into account the measures to end teachers’ contracts before July 5.”

Baroud spoke of “hundreds of teachers being discharged from their schools every year based on a legal article that gives the right to school owners to dismiss any teacher from service, provided that they send the teacher a notification before July 5.”

H said it should be kept in mind that thousands of teachers have not yet received their salaries for the last four months, and some of them had received only 50 percent or even less of their salaries.

Khoury said: “The AUB received a loan from the late Prime Minister Rashid Karami at the beginning of the 1975 Lebanese civil war to keep it afloat. In the 1990s, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri provided aid and grants to the universities. Today, no one can help universities.”

Last Thursday, the Lebanese parliament adopted a proposal submitted by the leader of the Future Parliamentary Bloc, Bahia Hariri, to allocate LBP300 billion to the education sector to help it mitigate the effects of COVID-19.