The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 29 April

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 29 April
Turkey's coronavirus cases are beginning to decline and Algeria continues to crackdown on free speech amid strict pandemic measures are some of today's stories.
4 min read
29 April, 2020
Here's your daily coronavirus update across the Middle East [Getty]

Here are five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on 29 April:

1. Turkey coronavirus cases decline 

Turkey has seen a decline this week in the number of daily deaths and rates of infection since it started to grapple with the novel coronavirus pandemic last month.

This comes as Istanbul, the country's largest city, was described by the health minister as the "epicentre" of infections in the country.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced 92 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest since 11 April.
The total death toll now stands at 2,992, with 114,653 confirmed infections.

Istanbul University Cerrahpasa president, Prof. Dr Nuri Aydin, said there are about 120 patients currently being treated at his facility for coronavirus infection, a drop from last week's 230.

"This week we saw a decrease in the number of patients in terms of the wards, also in terms of the ICU (intensive care) units. I believe one of the important things in this decrease is especially the weekend lockdowns and the lockdowns over-65 and below 20 years of age," he said.

2. Gulf airliners rumoured to be looking into opening flights as coronavirus restrictions ease

A number of Gulf airlines have declined rumours that they will begin with commercial flights in the coming weeks, as coronavirus sweeps across the Middle East.

"Rumours circulating that Kuwait Airways will start to resume commercial flights are incorrect," the airline said in a statement, adding that flights being shown for June were scheduled before the coronavirus pandemic.

"The announcement to reopen flights will be made officially by Kuwait Airways, as decided by the relevant government authorities."

The Saudi Airlines website is also showing flights with an open booking window as of June, prompting rumours that booking will commence from 1 June.

"Allowing booking on the company's website from 1 June does not mean ending the suspension on flights because of the coronavirus pandemic will end," Fahad Bahdailah, vice-president of corporate communications at Saudi Airlines told Al-Arabiya.

3. Algeria arrests another activist amid coronavirus crackdown

An Algerian activist, who created a well-known memes page on Facebook, has been arrested for criticising the president, in a move that shows the deepening attacks on freedom of speech in the North African country during the coronavirus pandemic.

Walid Kechida, the creator of the Facebook page "Hirak Memes", was arrested in the city of Sétif for posting satirical cartoons on the social networking website.

He has been accused of contempt and offense to President Abdelmajdid Tebboune, who took the reigns of power from ailing former head of state Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose allies are facing corruption charges.

4. Saudi Arabia buys $500 million stake in Live Nation as part of coronavirus bargain buy-up
Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) bought a 5.7 percent stake for $500 million in entertainment company Live Nation, according to news reports.

This shows an emerging potential trend which sees the PIF purchasing stakes in corporations whose stock prices were hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The purchase took place amid the Saudi sovereign wealth fund's heavily criticised bid to take over English football club Newcastle United for a proposed £300 million.

Live Nation, parent company to Ticketmaster, saw its price shares plummet by over 40 percent since the beginning of the year, as public events around the world were cancelled due to the pandemic.

5. Jordan jeweller cashes in selling bizarre coronavirus-shaped necklace

In offbeat news, a jeweller in Jordan is offering a unique set of sparkly, coronavirus-shaped necklaces to remind buyers of "the days when we were strong and united" during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amman-based Nabeel Sakkijha Jewellery showcased the new designs in an Instagram story posted on Monday.

"Coronavirus will soon be a memory.." read the first image in the story. "Buy a necklace to remind yourself of the days when we were strong and united."

"God bless Jordan," the post added.

The necklaces are gold, green and red, and shaped like the novel coronavirus under a microscope.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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