Coronavirus Pandemic: Positive stories of resilience and bravery from the Middle East this week

Coronavirus Pandemic: Positive stories of resilience and bravery from the Middle East this week
Top five stories highlighting the Middle East’s resilience in the face of the novel coronavirus this week.
5 min read
24 May, 2020
Morocco exports face masks to Europe, among other positive developments this week. [Getty]
As Muslims around the world marked Eid al-Fitr, the total coronavirus cases surpassed 5.3 million globally. In the absence of a vaccine, Covid-19 has killed over 340,000 people.

While 2.1 million patients have already recovered from infection, countries accross the Middle East have eased coronavirus restrictions, allowing businesses and places of worship to reopen under strict regulations.

After gaining some control over outbreak, the Middle East has seen some positive advancements. Every week, The New Arab reports five uplifting stories concerning the region. Here are out top picks from this week:

1. Tunisia launches app that alerts users if they come in contact with coronavirus

Tunisia has launched a contact-tracing mobile phone app that identifies and alerts users who might have been in contact with a person infected with the coronavirus.

In comments to the AFP, the Tunisian health ministry said the application E7mi (Arabic for 'protect') – available on Android and pending validation for for iOS – was developed by a Tunisian start-up specialised in digital marketing.
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According to the report, Tunisia's Observatory of Emerging Diseases (ONME) notifies users whose phones were spotted in close proximity to a user confirmed to have Covid-19. 

"We started in March when we heard about the TraceTogether app in Singapore, but we wanted to do something suitable for Tunisia," Akil Agati, head of the Wizz Labs start-up behind the app, told AFP.

Users "will not report themselves infected, to avoid false alarms, and users who have been notified of being in contact with a sick person will also receive a phone call from the ONME so there can be follow-up," he said.

2. Church in Germany hosts Friday prayers for muslims during coronavirus pandemic

A church in Berlin has allowed Muslims to hold Friday prayers, after a nearby mosque reached its coronavirus-mandated capacity limit. 

The move was praised by global Muslims and non-Muslims alike and was widely perceived as an act of 'kindness and solidarity'.

Places of worship in Germany were allowed to reopen earlier this month though measures aimed at curbing the spread limit the number of worshippers allowed at a time to 50.

The Dar Assalam mosque in Berlin's Neukölln district would normally host around 1,000 people for Friday prayers, according to Newsweek. The restrictions would only allow a fraction of regular worshippers to attend the prayers.

As Muslims marked the holy month of Ramadan, which sees a spike in the number of worshippers attending prayers, the nearby Martha evangelical church stepped in to accomodate at least a portion of Muslims who would not be able to attend prayers.

The church currently hosts two services of Friday prayers, one in German and another in Arabic. Worshippers pray while wearing protective masks.

"I was a bit surprised by the idea, but it was a beautiful feeling. At a time when mosques are full, it's a wonderful initiative," one worshipper told Deutsche Welle.

In pictures: Muslims celebrate Eid amid curfews and fears over rising coronavirus cases

3. Morocco exports face masks to Europe as coronavirus lockdown eases

A growing number of Moroccan companies are providing European countries with protective equipment, as many are easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions and people are returning to work.

A total of 16 companies are exporting reusable protective equipment to Spain, France, Italy and Germany.

Morocco has 73 units and cooperatives that manufacture washable, reusable masks.

The Moroccan ministry of industry told Spanish news agency EFE that the export of masks has slowly grown since 10 May and may continue to do so in the coming weeks.

The North African country has approximately 40 textile factories that produce 10 million masks, and Morocco has given permission to textile companies to export half of the locally produced masks if national demand is met.

Morocco’s Minister of Trade Moulay Hafid Elalamy said that allowing textile companies to continue work allows for both an increase in the production of protective equipment, and keeps businesses open during the Covid-19 crisis, supporting the economy.

In Morocco, citizens have been ordered to wear face masks in public, with those who refuse to follow the directive risking prison sentences of between one and three months.

Prisons have also been utilised in the production of face masks, and the General Commission for Prison and Reintegration Administration (DGAPR) on 19 May announced the launch of a national project where prisoners help make protective equipment.

4. IMF grants $396 million to Jordan to help fight coronavirus

The International Monetary Fund $396 million for Jordan to fight the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday. The disbursement is equal to about a quarter of Jordan's projected need during the pandemic.
Jordan imposed strict curfew to curb the virus [Getty]

The exeptional coronavirus lending program allows nations to circumvent the lengthy negotiations usually required to secure a full economic assistance program.

According to the AFP, the IMF said the country had "taken proactive efforts since the Covid-19 outbreak to protect safety of its citizens and refugees," noting the implementation of a curfew and the prioritisation of healthcare spending.

However the disruptions to tourism, remittances exports and capital inflows have created "an urgent balance of payments need," IMF Deputy Managing Director Mitsuhiro Furusawa was quoted as saying.

The money, Furusawa said, would "support international reserves and help meet the budget financing needs for crisis mitigation."

5. Ultra-rare Saharan cheetah spotted in Algeria

Conservationists in Algeria sighted the critically endangered Saharan cheetah following months-long research efforts in the Ahaggar National Park in the country's mountainous south, an announcement said on Monday.

Thought to number only 200, the rare big cat was spotted by camera traps laid out in the Atakor volcanic field by researchers working on a project run by the national park.

Speaking at an online heritage conference, the Director of the Ahaggar National Park Office Hamoud Amerzagh said that the project had involved fifty researchers across various disciplines, using 40 cameras continuously collecting footage over 120 days, and generating more than 230,000 photos.

The last reported sighting of the cat, also known as the Northwest African cheetah and locally as the amaya, was in 2015 following a similar camera trap project. The footage was later published online.

Watch the video: Saharan cheetah spotted in Algeria for first time in years

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