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Coronavirus Pandemic: Positive stories of resilience and bravery from the Middle East this week

Citizens of the Middle East are resilient and accustomed to adversity [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 25 March, 2020

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Top five stories highlighting the Middle East’s resilience in the face of coronavirus this week

It's not all grim news, as the Middle East and the globe fight the coronavirus pandemic. Here are five stories from this week highlighting the Middle East’s resilience in the face of coronavirus

1) Lebanese students prototype ventillators to be produced locally 

In coronavirus-hit Lebanon, three engineering students from the Lebanese University initiated a project to produce ventillators needed for coronavirus patients who need hospitalisation, after local news media circulated reports of equipment shortages citing the Ministry of Health.

The initiative started as a proposal on Facebook posted by one of the students, Hussein al-Haj Hassan, on March 14.

The post received an overwhelming response, garnering likes and shares in the thousands. Together with the two other students, Hisham Issa and Hsein Hamdan, the trio launched the Lebanon Response Teams initiative to produce the ventillators.

Ventillators, which are machines for assisted breathing, have been in high demand since the current coronavirus, which is a respiratory illness, was declared a pandemic.

While most cases are mild and do not require hospitalisation, patients who exhibit severe symptoms develop pneumonia and need assistance breathing.

To date, over 350 people have joined the initiative group, volunteering their expertise in different backgrounds including mechanical, system, electronics, and biomedical engineering. Several doctors have also offered their assistance free of charge.

In addition to the ventillator, which now has a preliminary prototype that will be tested once completed, the group is working on 8 other projects, including face masks, Nour Alwan, a Lebanese community curator managing the project on Slack told The New Arab.

Representatives of the response team are also holding meetings with officials from the Lebanese Ministries of Health and Labour to pave the way for the next phase, Alwan said. 

Read more:

Special coverage: How many coronavirus cases are there in the Middle East?

2) Turkey’s municipalities run delivery service for elderly people

Turkey has imposed a curfew for citizens over the age of 65, but new initiatives carried out by municipalities across the country are helping the elderly get supplies delivered to their homes.

Since the targeted age group is the most vulnerable to COVID-19, according to current data shared by the World Health Organization, the measure would potentially help save hundreds of lives.

To ensure those under curfew have access to food and medicine, municipalities have set up hotlines that adults over 65 can dial to pass on their grocery lists to municipality staff, who would then purchase the items and arrange the delivery to their homes.

While the curfew only includes people over 65, Turkish citizens of all ages were asked to stay at home in campaigns led by the Turkish government, which will also be distributing financial aid to local families in need.

A municipality in Gaziantep is now also offering municipal services online. “Let our citizens stay home, let them read books. Our goal in this stage is to help citizens run their affairs without having to leave home,” Mehmet Tahmazoğlu, who is the mayor of Gaziantep’s Şahinbey, was quoted as saying. 

3) Shoemaker sets up a mask factory overnight in West Bank

The West Bank is producing its own face masks, after a Palestinian shoemaker, Amjad Zaghir, set up its first such factory, to avert a crisis caused by the depletion of medical mask supplies observed globally.

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Zaghir’s factory, which was set up overnight, is producing thousands of masks a day, according to 972Magazine

The city of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank confirmed its first cases of COVID-19 this month and authorities immediately announced a state of emergency. According to 972Magazine, soon after Zaghir became aware of the situation he grabbed a mask and came up with a plan to recreate it before local stocks ran out.

“This is about helping my people and a way of providing work opportunities,” Zaghir said.

Although Palestine has recorded 60 confirmed cases, the Palestinian Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported that a total of 4522 tests were run, the vast majority of which were negative.

4) Saudi Arabia uses PlayStation football challenge to promote #StayHome campaign

The Kingdom’s National football teams are taking part in a virtual campaign raising awareness on COVID-19 prevention tips and calling on Saudis to stay at home. 

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), which is the official body governing the sport, on Monday broadcast a friendly virtual football match on its channels. The match, played between Al-Wehda Club and SAFF, was entirely over Playstation video game console system.

The Playstation challenge was announced as part of the sport body’s broader #StayHome campaign after the Kingdom’s Sports ministry decided to suspend all sports activities. According to reports, Football fans attending matches boosted the early spread of the coronavirus in Italy. Large gatherings and sports activities have been cancelled in most COVID-affected countries now.

“Our stars’ influence extends beyond the [football] field,” the national team said in a tweet featuring a video of prominent football player, Yasser Gharsan, who plays for Al-Hilal. In the short clip, Gharsan depicts the correct way to wash hands to prevent infection. 

5) Egyptian doctors offer free medical advice online

A group of medical doctors in pandemic-hit Egypt have set up a Facebook page offering free virtual consultations to take the pressure off overworked medical staff in hospitals and clinics.

The group includes doctors of all specialisations, who will directly answer users’ questions, Rasha Berro, MD and founder of the group, told Egypt’s El Watan Newspaper in a report.

The initiative aims to address people’s concerns and questions directly from their homes, combatting mass panic which has further swarmed clinics, hospitals and testing labs.

According to the report, the most asked questions are related to COVID-19, including “the difference between cold and coronavirus symptoms and prevention methods.”

If users asking questions are recognised as emergency cases by the team of doctors, they are advised to seek the necessary medical attention.

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