More regulations eased as the world learns to live with coronavirus

Volunteers fill cartons with food rations in the Lebanese capital Beirut on May 29, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 31 May 2020

More regulations eased as the world learns to live with coronavirus

DUBAI: More countries across the Middle East are reopening their economies as COVID-19 infections cases are being controlled and stabilized in some areas of the region.

Saudi Arabia will resume domestic flights and prayers in mosques on Sunday, while authorities released new rules of conduct and ask people to follow them.

The UAE’s national disinfection program was revised, allowing residents to freely move from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Those living in Dubai meanwhile have an extra hour outdoors, with the de facto curfew in effect from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Mosques and churches in Jordan will also reopen for the public on June 7. Meanwhile, Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem will allow prayers starting Sunday.

May 30, 2020, Saturday (All times in GMT)

18:55 - Mauritania records 60 new #coronavirus cases and one death.

17:55 - Egypt announced 1,367 new cases of coronavirus and 34 deaths from the disease. 

17:50 - Yemen announced 27 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. 

17:45 - The UAE announced 726 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. 

17:32 -  Spain's coronavirus death toll rose by four on Saturday to 27,125, the Health Ministry said, reflecting a dramatic decline in daily fatalities in recent weeks as the country brings the outbreak under control.

17:30 - Morocco is evacuating its citizens that have been stranded in Algeria due to coronavirus restrictions. 

16:58 - Iraq announced the death of 10 patients from COVID-19 on Saturday in highest daily death toll so far. 

16:15 - The UN General Assembly adopted a new voting procedure Friday for the upcoming election of new members of the Security Council aimed at preventing a large gathering and ensuring social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of meeting in the horseshoe-shaped assembly chamber at UN headquarters overlooking New York’s East River, ambassadors from the 193 UN member nations will cast secret ballots at a designated venue during spaced-out time slots.

15:23 - UK government authorizes return of live sport, while Britain announces 215 coronavirus deaths.

14:27 - Iraq imposes a full curfew for a week from tomorrow.

12:45 - Saudi Arabia announced 22 new deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday and 1,618 new cases of the virus.

11:35 – Cathay Pacific Airways said that the reopening of transit services for passengers at Hong Kong International Airport from June 1 will not include those traveling to and from mainland China. READ MORE

08:36 – Government employees went back to work in Iran on Saturday and President Hassan Rouhani said mosques are to resume daily prayers throughout the country, even though some areas are seeing high levels of coronavirus infections.

07:53 – Germany blasted US President Donald Trump’s decision to sever ties with the World Health Organization, describing it as “disappointing” and a setback for global health. Health Minister Jens Spahn said the WHO “needs reform” if it is to “make any difference,” something the EU must now take a lead in doing.




US President Donald Trump said the World Health Organization failed to do enough to combat the initial spread of coronavirus. (AFP)

07:45 – Russia reported 181 deaths from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, down from the record 232 deaths registered the previous day and pushing the nationwide death toll to 4,555. Officials said 8,952 new infections had been confirmed, bringing the national tally to 396,575, the third highest reported total in the world after the United States and Brazil.

07:01 – Two scientific advisers to the British government have warned that COVID-19 is still spreading too fast in the country to lift the lockdown, with one describing it as a political decision. READ MORE

06:19Taiwan’s government approved Gilead Sciences’ potential COVID-19 treatment, remdesivir, to treat the illness caused by the coronavirus.

06:10India registered another record single-day jump of 7,964 coronavirus cases and 265 deaths, a day before the 2-month-old lockdown is set to end.

04:50 – Thailand reported one new coronavirus case and no new deaths, taking the total number of infections to 3,077 as local transmission of the new virus appeared to wane.


US general sees smaller but enduring troop presence in Iraq

Updated 13 min 50 sec ago

US general sees smaller but enduring troop presence in Iraq

  • Tensions spiked between the US and Iraq in January after a US drone strike killed Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis
  • McKenzie said the US recognizes that Al-Kadhimi is in a difficult position as he tries to deal with all factions within the government

WASHINGTON: Six months after a deadly American airstrike in Baghdad enraged Iraqis and fueled demands to send all US troops home, the top US general for the Middle East is talking optimistically about keeping a smaller but enduring military presence there.
Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, met Tuesday with Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, and said afterward that he believes the Iraqis welcome the US and coalition troops, especially in the ongoing fight to keep Daesh militants from taking hold of the country again.
“I believe that going forward, they’re going to want us to be with them,” McKenzie told a small group of reporters, speaking by phone hours after he left Iraq. “I don’t sense there’s a mood right now for us to depart precipitously. And I’m pretty confident of that.”
Tensions spiked between the US and Iraq in January after a US drone strike near the Baghdad airport killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. Angry Iraqi lawmakers, spurred on by Shiite political factions, passed a nonbinding resolution to oust all US-led coalition forces from the country.
In response to the Soleimani killing, Iran on Jan. 8 launched a massive ballistic missile attack on Al-Asad air base in Iraq, which resulted in traumatic brain injuries to more than 100 American troops. Two months later, US fighter jets struck five sites in retaliation, targeting Iranian-backed Shiite militia members believed responsible for the January rocket attack.
President Donald Trump has vowed to bring troops home and halt what he calls America’s endless wars. But he has also warned Iran to expect a bold US response if Iranian-backed militias attack Americans in Iraq.
The US invaded Iraq in 2003, but troops left in 2011. American forces returned to Iraq in 2014, after Daesh began taking over large swaths of the country,
McKenzie last visited Iraq in early February, slipping into the country for a few hours to meet with leaders as anti-American sentiment was soaring and violent protests and rocket attacks were pummeling the American Embassy.
Relations, however, have improved since Al-Kadhimi took over in May. And while some groups, such as parliament’s Iran-backed Fatah bloc, continue to call for the withdrawal of US forces, there is an emerging dialog between the US and Iraq on the future relationship between the two nations.
McKenzie said the US recognizes that Al-Kadhimi is in a difficult position as he tries to deal with all factions within the government and maintain relations with both the US and Iran.
The US has criticized Iraq’s government for being unable to rein in the Iran-backed militia groups it believes are orchestrating the attacks. And Al-Kadhimi has pledged to protect American troops and installations from attacks.
“I think he’s negotiating a land mine now. I think we need to help him,” McKenzie said. “He’s in a very difficult position.”
McKenzie said he hopes the US-Iraq meeting slated for this month will be face-to-face but knows the coronavirus pandemic could affect that. The talks are expected to run the gamut of their bilateral relations, with Washington prioritizing future force levels in Iraq and the ongoing militia attacks, and Baghdad focusing more on its dire economic crisis.
“Certainly we need some foreign presence in Iraq,” McKenzie said. “I don’t know that it needs to be as big as it is now, because ultimately that’s going to be a political, not a military, decision. But I think the Iraqis know, welcome and value what we do for them now.”
There are between 5,000 and 6,000 US troops in Iraq.
McKenzie would not say how many US troops might stay. But he said Iraqi conventional forces now operate on their own. US and coalition forces continue to conduct training and counterterrorism operations, including with Iraqi commandos. Any final decisions, he said, would be coordinated with the Iraqi government.
He said that as Iraqi troops grow more competent, fewer coalition forces would be needed.