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The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 17 April

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Date of publication: 17 April, 2020

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Tunisian engineers a web-based platform that scans lung X-rays for Covid-19, Qatari charities are feeding migrant workers in lockdown and other stories in today's daily roundup.
Here are five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on 17 April:

1. Tunisian online platform scans X-rays for coronavirus detection

Tunisian engineers have created a web-based platform that scans lung X-rays and evaluates whether patients are likely to be suffering from the novel coronavirus.

While it's not the first initiative of its kind in the world, its creators say it is the first to be openly available. And though not a diagnostic tool, the technology provides a "90 percent" reliable indication of the probability of infection, they add.

Teachers and students at the Tunisian engineering and technology institute INSAT have been developing the platform – Covid-19 Exam Ct/XR images by AI – since mid-March, with the support of German development agency GIZ, the Italian Society of Medical Radiology and US tech giant IBM.

2. Qatari charity feeds expat workers in coronavirus lockdown

Volunteers stacked thousands of trays of steaming curry in a Doha kitchen, readying them to be distributed to low-income migrant workers facing food shortages while under lockdown due to Covid-19.

The NGO Qatar Charity launched an initiative in recent weeks to deliver daily meals to around 4,000 migrant workers, many confined in the working-class Industrial Area in the south of the capital Doha.

Tens of thousands of residents were quarantined in the area after cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed among the community last month.

The area faced food shortages in the early days of the lockdown, according to residents, diplomats and NGOs, with reports that stores hiked prices to unaffordable levels.

3. Iranian 'Angelina Jolie' Instagram star contracts coronavirus in jail

A famed Iranian Instagram celebrity, known for her transformation into a macabre "Angelina Jolie" lookalike, is reportedly on a ventilator after contracting the novel coronavirus while in custody, according to a US Human Rights group.

Fatemeh Khishvand, 22, known on Instagram as "Sahar Tabar", was arrested in October as part of a nationwide crackdown on social media influencers, facing a string of charges of including blasphemy, incitement to violence and "encouraging youth to engage in lunacy".

Local Judge Mohammmad Moghisheh reportedly denied Khishvand her release on bail multiple times, most recently during the country's Covid-19 outbreak.

4. UN chief urges protection of Palestinians held in Israeli jails as Covid-19 spreads

The Secretary-General of the UN has expressed concern for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel as the novel coronavirus disease continues to spread.

Antonio Guterres on Friday said he has asked the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, to urge Israel to ensure the protection of Palestinian prisoners during the coronavirus outbreak.

Guterres stressed that Israel must carry out coronavirus tests on the sick prisoners and to socially distance them from other prisoners because they are vulnerable to catching the deadly disease.

5. Rights group asks Turkish Cypriots to release migrants

A human rights group urged Turkish Cypriot authorities in the breakaway north of ethnically split Cyprus to release 175 Syrian migrants, according to a statement released Thursday.

Human Rights Watch said the asylum seekers, among them 69 children, haven't been tested for covid-19, are confined to cramped apartments and are under constant surveillance even after a mandatory 14-day confinement period.

It said Turkish Cypriot authorities intend to return them to Turkey from where they departed, but the Turkish government refuses to take them because of coronavirus concerns.

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