The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 5 May

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 5 May
Jordan reports no new cases in a week, Houthi authorities in Sanaa report their first Covid-19 case and Lebanon extends lockdown measures in today's roundup.
4 min read
04 May, 2020
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Here are five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on 5 May:

1. Jordan marks major milestone in battle against coronavirus with no new cases in seven days
Jordan has reported zero deaths or cases from the coronavirus for seven consecutive days, a major milestone that comes after concerted efforts to tackle the virus.

The kingdom took some of the toughest lockdown measures in the world to tackle an outbreak, with people confined to their homes for weeks at a time and anyone breaking the curfew facing tough fines.

Health Minister Saad Jaber told the National Centre for Security and Crisis Management that the country had reached an important milestone with no new reported coronavirus cases for the seventh day in a row.

Four Covid-19 cases were discovered at a border crossing, but within the kingdom the situation appeared to be under control, he said.

Read more here.

Click to enlarge

2. Iran's Mahan Air accused of defying travel bans, 'spreading coronavirus' in the Middle East

Hundreds of Mahan Air planes carried passengers from Iran - after a major coronavirus outbreak - to countries in the Middle East contributed to spreading the disease in the region and defied a ban on flights out of the Islamic Republic, a BBCreport said on Tuesday.

The first confirmed coronavirus cases in Lebanon and Iraq were passengers on outbound flights from Iran, operated by the privately-owned Iranian airline, according to the investigation carried out by BBC Arabic.

The airline continued to fly despite government flight bans on flights from Iran and "contributed to the spread of Covid-19 in the Middle East", the report said.

The BBC also claimed cabin crew and passengers flying with the airline at the time were not provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) necessary to stem the spread of the virus. 

Mahan Air "put the lives of its passengers and cabin crew at risk", the report alleged.

Iran, Iraq, the UAE and Syria gave the airline the green light to carry out flights between late January and the end of March, while they barred all other companies from flying in from Iran, according to the report. Read more here.

3. Houthis confirm first Coronavirus case after Somali national dies in Sanaa

Authorities in Houthi-held northern Yemen have reported their first case of the novel coronavirus, a Somali national who was found dead in a Sanaa hotel.

Yemen's UN-recognised government to the south, meanwhile, reported nine new cases on Tuesday.

“We received a report about a situation in a hotel (in the capital Sanaa) on Sunday and epidemiological investigation teams went there immediately, where the affected person had died,” Houthi health minister Taha al-Mutawakkil told Al Masirah TV.

The deceased victim had underlying liver and kidney problems, the minister added.

Yemen now has a total of 21 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including three deaths in territory held by the internationally recognised government.

Read more here.

Read also: 'Starving is worse': Syrian refugees pushed to the edge of survival under Lebanon's lockdown

4. Middle East ride-hailing firm Careem cuts nearly a third of jobs over virus

Middle East ride-hailing firm Careem on Tuesday set about slashing nearly a third of its workforce due to the severe economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, its CEO said.

"Starting tomorrow... 536 of our colleagues who make up 31 percent of Careem will leave us," Mudassir Sheikha said in a statement released late Monday.

"Our business is down by more than 80 percent and the recovery timeline is alarmingly unknown."

Dubai-based Careem, acquired by Uber last year for $3.1 billion in the Middle East's biggest technology transaction, operates taxi-hailing apps in 14 countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

But as part of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, almost all countries in the region have resorted to massive shutdowns, paralysing businesses. Read more here.

5. Lebanon extends partial coronavirus lockdown despite no new cases

The Lebanese cabinet approved a two-week extension of the partial coronavirus lockdown, recommended by the Higher Defence Council, while no new local infections were confirmed on Tuesday.

Under the new extension, the easing of restrictions on businesses will continue as planned, while restaurants, hair salons and showrooms have already been allowed to re-open at partial capacity in the first stage of the phase out.

On Tuesday, Lebanon's health ministry said there were no new coronavirus cases among the local population for the second consecutive day. Total confirmed cases stood at 741 according to official numbers.

The Lebanese Higher Defence Council convened earlier to discuss the extension of the anti-virus 'general mobilization' until 24 May.

The extension was proposed by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who claimed "citizens" were not properly adhering to the easing measures, as businesses allowed to reopen. Read more here.

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