The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 13 June

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 13 June
Morocco is set to ease restrictive lockdown measures, while an eruption of Covid-19-like symptoms in Darfur raises fears of a spread in refugee camps.
4 min read
13 June, 2020
Here's your daily Coronavirus update [TNA]
Five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on 13 June.

1. Spike in deaths in Darfur points to coronavirus invisible spread
In the sprawling refugee camps of Darfur, the war-scarred western region of Sudan, officials say the elderly are falling sick and dying at astonishing rates.

In North Darfur’s provincial capital of El Fasher, some say they scroll through a dozen death announcements each day - another old friend, relative, community leader lost with dizzying speed.

Doctors in the region’s few functioning hospitals report an influx of patients with symptoms like a lost sense of taste, breathing troubles and fevers. The official causes of their untimely deaths remain “unknown”.

Humanitarian workers and medical personnel believe the coronavirus is spreading unchecked and untracked through Sudan’s most marginalised territory, where medical facilities are few and far between and where years of conflict have left some 1.6 million people crammed into refugee camps.

Nationwide, Sudan has reported 6,879 coronavirus infections and 433 deaths, according to the health ministry. Of those, 193 cases and 54 fatalities have been confirmed across Darfur - a figure experts believe is a vast undercount.

Read more here

2. Morocco records 73 New coronavirus cases in 24 hours

Morocco’s ministry of health has confirmed 73 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, as well as 35 new recoveries.

This brings the total number of cases registered in the country to 8,610, with 7,618 recovered.

The ministry also reported one new death in Tangier, bringing the total number of deaths to 212, and the recovery rate has dropped to 88.5 per cent.

Earlier this week, the Moroccan government announced plans to ease restrictive lockdown measures imposed to curb coronavirus infections, but it will not lift the state of emergency until 10 July.

Morocco has been on lockdown since March 20, and the gradual relaxation will take into account disparities in the infection rate between Moroccan regions, the government said in a statement.

Tunisia is set to be the first country in North Africa to reopen its borders, as the country has recorded zero local cases of coronavirus for almost one month.

It is set to reopen its borders on 27 June.

Last week President Kais Saied ordered the lifting of a nationwide curfew first imposed in March to contain the spread of covid-19.

Tunisia has recorded 1,087 cases and 49 coronavirus-related deaths.

4. Fears that a Canadian held without trial in notorious Egyptian prison has contracted coronavirus

53-year-old Yasser Ahmed Albaz visited Egypt in December 2018 for business purposes. Although he and his family had visited Egypt before on a regular basis without incident, his passport was confiscated by officials at Cairo Airport when he tried to return to Canada, with authorities revealing his name had been flagged for investigation.

Albaz has been held since February 2019 in the Tora prison near Cairo, where conditions are inhumane and detainees are frequently tortured, according to Human Rights Watch.

Albaz’s family now fear that he has been infected with the coronavirus. His daughter Amal has led an international campaign to secure his release.

“We have been told from our source that another prisoner has died in my father’s wing from Covid-19 and that some guards were infected and spread it in the prison. He is held in a cell with so many inmates and one shared toilet. It has been very difficult for him,” Amal told the Turkish TV channel TRT World.

Read more here

5. Coronavirus ruined the remains of Yemen's healthcare system

“Five years of fighting had caused Yemen’s healthcare system to collapse in large parts,” confirmed Claire HaDuong, Medecins Sans Frontieres’s head of mission in Yemen.

“Now Covid-19 has made that collapse complete,” she concluded.

In a post published on MSF’s website, HaDuong said:
“[The collapse occurred as] many hospitals closing for fear of the coronavirus or for lack of staff and personal protective equipment.”

She added: “Many people will die of this virus, but we fear that many others will also die from what should have been preventable deaths, because healthcare is simply not available.”

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