The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 18 May

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 18 May
4 min read
18 May, 2020
Job cuts in the UAE, a spike in cases in Yemen, and a tragic death in Algeria.
Here's the most important coronavirus news today [TNA]
Here are five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on 18 May:

1. Emirates airline 'planning to lay off 30,000 staff' after grim financial forecast

The Emirates Group is set to let go of around 30,000 employees to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic, reducing its workforce by approximately 30 percent, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The air travel giant will see its staff shrink to around 75,000, from more than 105,000 at the end of March, said the report on Sunday.

The airline is also looking at accelerating the retirement of its fleet of A380 super jumbo jets - the world's largest passenger airliner.

A spokesperson said that Emirates Group is currently reviewing "costs and resourcing against business projections", but added that no public announcement has been made yet regarding redundancies.

Read more here

2. Oil rises above $30 a barrel as coronavirus lockdown measures are eased

Oil climbed above the $30 a barrel mark on Monday for the first time in months, as demand in China for the commodity rises and coronavirus lockdown measures are eased.

The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) traded at $31.52 per barrel on Monday, after dipping below zero in April.

Brent July contracts also traded at $34.25 per barrel, with oil prices reaching their highest in two months, according to Forbes.

It comes after oil producers - including Saudi Arabia and the UAE - agreed to cut outflow to bolster prices, after WTI fell below zero sparking anger in the US.

Read more here

3. Muslim authorities encourage Eid Al-Fitr prayers at home to help 'save humanity' from coronavirus

Saudi Arabia and Egypt's top Islamic institutions announced a legal ruling permitting Eid prayers at home, as the world continues to struggle with the global coronavirus pandemic.

Egypt's Al-Azhar and Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh said it was permissible to perform the annual Eid al-Fitr prayer at home, extending precautionary measures to help stem the spread of Covd-19.

Muslims can perform the prayers individually or in congregation with their families within their homes, a statement by Al-Azhar said. It noted that the move is necessary to serve the greater Islamic purpose of protecting humanity from danger.

"The sermon is not required for the Eid prayer if it is being performed at home," the statement said, detailing the process of the prayer.

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4. Pregnant Algerian doctor dies of coronavirus after being denied maternity leave

The death of a pregnant Algerian doctor from the Covid-19 disease after she was denied maternity leave has sparked an uproar and prompted the dismissal Sunday of a hospital director.

Health Minister Abderrahman Benbouzid sacked the director of the Ras El Oued hospital in eastern Algeria after Wafa Boudissa succumbed to Covid-19, a source close to the case told AFP.

The 28-year-old doctor was eight months pregnant and worked at the IC surgery unit of the hospital when she died on Friday.

She had asked the hospital chief, who was not named, for early maternity leave, but he refused to let her take any time off.

Colleagues of the victim had backed her request and signed a petition in solidarity, one of them said.

Read more here

5. Yemen's Aden 'on the verge of catastrophe' as suspected coronavirus-linked deaths surge

Deaths in Aden have surged to at least five times higher than normal, an NGO and medics say, igniting fears that the coronavirus is spreading unhindered in the Yemeni port city.

Six years of war against the Houthis - and a widening fault-line among forces opposed to that rebel outfit - have left authorities ill-equipped to control the spread of the virus.

The first coronavirus case in Aden, the government's interim capital, was only recorded about a month ago.

But since then, the total number of deaths registered in the city has "increased seven-fold", according to Saddam al-Haidari, a physician at a public hospital.

Hospitals have stopped admitting patients with symptoms of the Covid-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus in recent days, several health sources told AFP, since they are not equipped to deal with the virus.

Read more here


Agencies contributed to this report. 

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