The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 6 May

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 6 May
Egypt eases its lockdown to kickstart its economy, Morocco's increasing use of drones to enforce coronavirus measures raises human rights concerns, and dolphins return to Beirut in today's roundup.
4 min read
06 May, 2020
Find out how the Middle East and North Africa are fighting coronavirus [TNA]
Here are five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on 6 May:

1. Egypt looks to restart pandemic hit economy by easing virus lockdown

Egypt's economy had just started to recover after years of political turmoil and militant attacks when the coronavirus crisis hit, impacting especially its vital tourism sector.

Now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government has loosened a strict curfew for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in an effort to kick-start North Africa's largest economy.

Having shuttered shops and cafes in late March and forced millions of civil servants to stay home, Cairo is slowly reversing some of these measures, bringing back many state workers and extending the trading hours of shops and malls.

The blessing for the emerging economy of more than 100 million people, experts say, is that activity has kept ticking over in agriculture and construction, and especially in the vast informal sector.

Read more here.

2. Morocco launches fleet of drones to tackle coronavirus from the sky, amid authoritarianism fears

Morocco has rapidly expanded its fleet of drones as it battles the coronavirus pandemic, deploying them for aerial surveillance, public service announcements and sanitisation.

"This is a real craze. In just weeks, demand has tripled in Morocco and other countries in the region," said Yassine Qamous, chief of Droneway Maroc, African distributor for leading Chinese drone company DJI.

Moroccan firms have been using drones for years and Qamous says it "is among the most advanced countries in Africa" for unmanned flight, with a dedicated industrial base, researchers and qualified pilots.

However, the increased surveillance and resulting arrests have drawn criticism from Georgette Gagnon, director of field operations at the United Nations' Human Rights Office.

Last week she listed Morocco among countries where repressive coronavirus measures have created a "toxic lockdown culture".

Read more here.

3. Quarantine quiet brings dolphins to Beirut coastline during coronavirus lockdown

 were seen close to the Lebanon's coastline this week, as coronavirus lockdowns bring wildlife back to the waters of the Middle East.

Several videos have captured pods of dolphins swimming against the backdrop of the Beirut skyline, a phenomenon attributed to the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, which has seen a sharp decrease in traffic in the Mediterranean.

According to local fisherman Farouk Dagher, who posted clips of the sea creatures on Tuesday morning, there are three pods of dolphins swimming off the Beirut coast.

In Farouk's videos, the characteristic trilling sound of the dolphins can be faintly heard on tape, as they splash serenely in the distance.

Watch the videos here.

4. Iran warns of rising coronavirus trend as cases exceed 100,000

Iran warned of a "rising trend" in its coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday as it said 1,680 new infections took its overall caseload beyond the 100,000 mark.

The country has struggled to contain the Middle East's deadliest COVID-19 outbreak since announcing its first cases in mid-February.

Concerns were raised last month about the threat of a "second wave" of the virus in a report by parliament that criticised the government's slow response.

"We are witnessing a rising trend in the past three or four days, which is significant," health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour told a televised news conference.

The rise was "based on our behaviour, especially in the past two weeks, considering that a part of society has apparently had a change of attitude," he added.

Read more here.

5. German FM asks Turkey to keep its coronavirus mask donation 'a secret'

Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Mass reportedly asked Turkey to keep its delivery of coronavirus medical aid to the country a secret, the Daily Sabah reported.

Mass asked Ankara to conceal the donation of 2 million masks to help the North Rhine-Westphalia in its fight against Covid-19, German media reported earlier this week.

A spokesperson from the North Rhine-Westphalia region confirmed Turkey's delivery of the masks, German state TV Tagesschau reported.

German media later revealed that Foreign Minister Mass had asked Turkey to conceal the donation.

A source close to the Turkish government confirmed the German request, saying it was due to Turkey being a "red flag" for some sectors of the German population.

Unlike other countries, Turkey has no shortage of respirators or masks.

Find out more here.

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