Pandemic update

COVID-19 across the Islamic world – Fighting shy of coronavirus

Coronavirus continues unabated. Iran remains a hub of infection, war-torn Syria has recorded its first case and Yemen is bracing itself for the worst. Here’s the latest from across the region

Morocco

Morocco declared a health emergency on 20 March and is restricting movement across the country to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. People may only leave their homes to buy food or medicine or go to work after receiving a permit from the authorities.

"The health emergency does not mean stopping the economy," said the interior ministry, noting that banks, fuel stations and other critical businesses will be able to operate.

Algeria

Algeria has reported 62 new coronavirus cases, bringing to 201 the total number of people infected with the virus, the health ministry said on 22 March. It said a total of 110 cases were recorded in the Blida area, south of the capital.

Tunisia

Tunisia's president ordered a general lockdown on 20 March, limiting citizens' free movement in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. "All of Tunisia is united in this dangerous war. The war has a cost and the exceptional decisions that we announced have a cost, but we have no choice", Fakhfakh said in speech.

 
The government will provide 450 million dinars in financial aid to poor families and Tunisians who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis.

Libya

Libya's internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli has ordered a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to help prevent coronavirus infections, it said in a statement on 21 March.

Libya has not officially confirmed any cases of the coronavirus inside its borders.

Egypt

Egypt has ordered mosques and churches to shut their doors to worshippers in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, after calls for the government to follow steps taken by neighbouring countries.

The North African country reported nine new coronavirus cases and two fatalities on Saturday, the health ministry said in a statement, bringing the totals to 294 confirmed infections and 10 deaths.

Sudan

Sudan confirmed its second case of coronavirus on 20 March in the capital Khartoum, as Khartoum state announced a range of measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

 
Khartoum state has decided to ban all mass gatherings including religious celebrations and rallies, as well as to close wedding halls and sports venues and shisha (water pipe) cafes, the agency said.

Sudan announced its first, fatal case of coronavirus a week ago. The country has closed airports and borders to guard against the illness.

Turkey

Turkish authorities will seize factories of mask-producing firms unless they agree to sell products to the government by Monday night, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu was quoted as saying, as Ankara seeks to contain the local coronavirus outbreak.

Turkey's death toll from the virus increased by nine to 30 on Sunday, with 1,256 confirmed cases after a surge in the last two weeks.

Authorities carried out simultaneous raids on the depots of all face mask producers in Turkey early on Sunday to demand they sign contracts with the Health Ministry and stop hoarding stock, Soylu was cited as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper.

Jordan

Jordan blew sirens at the start of a nationwide curfew on 21 March that limits the mobility of its 10 million citizens indefinitely in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, witnesses and officials said. Anyone violating the curfew, which severely restricts movement beyond emergency and essential services, can be jailed up to a year, the army said.

The curfew, in which thousands of soldiers have been deployed inside cities and on main highways across the country, is in place until further notice. Armoured police vehicles roamed the streets of main cities, calling on people to heed warnings not to leave their homes, witnesses said.

Syria

War-ravaged Syria on Sunday confirmed its first case of the coronavirus after weeks of rejecting opposition allegations that the disease had already reached a country with a wrecked health system and thousands of Iranian-backed militias and Shia pilgrims.

 
Health Minister Nizar al-Yaziji told state media "necessary measures" had been taken regarding the 20-year-old woman, who he said would be quarantined for 14 days and given medical checks.

There have been unconfirmed reports in recent weeks of coronavirus cases in Syria, whose health system, housing and infrastructure have been ravaged by nine years of civil war, but the authorities have denied any outbreak or cover-up.

Lebanon

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab asked the security forces on Saturday to enforce stricter measures to keep people at home and prevent gatherings to rein in the coronavirus outbreak.

In an address to the nation, Diab said this would include patrols and checkpoints. He called on the Lebanese to go out only if absolutely necessary and warned that the rising number of infections "foreshadows an imminent danger threatening society."

The health ministry recorded on Saturday a 29% rise in cases from the day before, bringing the total to 230, Diab said. Four people have died in the past month.

Lebanon's government declared a medical state of emergency earlier this week and ordered most of the country closed, including the airport.

Israel

Israel reported its first fatality from the coronavirus on 20 March. So far, the country has reported 705 cases of coronavirus, the large majority with mild symptoms. About 10 patients are in a serious condition and 15 have recovered completely.

 
Israel was one of the first countries to enact strict travel restrictions. Last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tightened a national stay-at-home policy, saying police would enforce restrictions.

Iran

Iran is the Middle Eastern nation worst hit by coronavirus, with around 1,700 deaths, over 21,000 infected people and one person dying from the virus every 10 minutes, according to the health ministry.

Washington has offered humanitarian assistance to its long-time foe. But the country's top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected the offer.

"American leaders are lying ... If they want to help Iran, all they need to do is to lift sanctions .... Then we can deal with the coronavirus outbreak," Rouhani said in a televised speech.

Iraq

Iraq's government has extended a curfew on travel in and out of Baghdad until 28 March as part of strict measures to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, it said in a statement on Sunday.

It said it had also decided to extend a ban on all inbound and outbound flights from the country's airports until 28 March. Under the curfew imposed on 17 March no persons can travel into or out of Baghdad.

At least 230 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed so far in Iraq, the Health Ministry said on 22 March, and 20 people have died.

Kuwait

Kuwait imposed a nationwide curfew on 22 March from 5 p.m. until 4 a.m. to fight the
spread of the coronavirus pandemic, state news agency KUNA said, citing the cabinet.

Kuwait, which went into virtual lockdown on Thursday, has taken some of the most drastic steps in the region to curb the virus' spread.

The Gulf Arab country, which has reported 176 cases of the virus, said violators of the curfew could face up to three years in jail or fines of up to 10,000 dinars ($32,157). The Kuwait National Guard will aid police in imposing the curfew.

Kuwait's cabinet also decided to extend a suspension of government and private agencies for two weeks. It had already announced an extension to a suspension of schools and universities until 4 August – the first among its neighbours to impose such lengthy education closures
to limit the spread of the sometimes deadly disease.

Yemen

Hunched over sewing machines in a long abandoned factory in Yemen's capital Sanaa, 20 women stitch face masks as a country ravaged by war, hunger and disease prepares for the arrival of a new epidemic.

COVID-19 has yet to be documented in Yemen, but Abdel Ilah, who manages the factory that opened three days ago, is getting ready for its arrival. "Coronavirus is knocking on the whole world's door," he said.

The five-year conflict has killed more than 100,000 and unleashed a humanitarian crisis in which many others have died. Yemen's shattered healthcare infrastructure and already weakened population suggest the virus could wreak more havoc if takes hold.

India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked citizens to stay indoors for a voluntary dawn-to-dusk curfew on 22 March, but said they should make noise at 5 p.m. (1130 GMT) to show their appreciation for medics, nurses and sanitation workers.

People responded by blowing conch shells, singing patriotic songs and banging drums. Outside, the usually bustling streets were quiet.

India has confirmed 341 cases of the virus and five related deaths, as of Sunday. Modi described the 14-hour curfew as a test to assess the country's ability to fight the pandemic.

Pakistan

A Pakistani doctor who screened suspected coronavirus patients died on Sunday after testing positive for the virus, highlighting the danger to physicians who have threatened to strike unless access to protection equipment improves.

 
Dr Osama Riaz, who was screening pilgrims who had returned to Pakistan from Iran, tested positive on Friday, the top health official in the country's northern Gilgit province, Shah Zaman, told journalists by phone, adding he had subsequently died.

Pakistan, which borders Iran and China, two of the most affected countries, has reported three deaths and 658 infected patients, the highest number in South Asia.

Indonesia

Indonesia reported 65 new positive cases of coronavirus disease on Monday, bringing the
total number of cases in Southeast Asia's largest economy to 579, Health Ministry official Achmad Yurianto told reporters.

The number of people killed by the virus rose by one on Monday to 49, he said, while 30 patients have recovered from the disease.

(Reuters/AP/AFP)

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