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The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 7 April

Here's your daily coronavirus update [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 April, 2020

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Moroccans face jail time if they are caught in public without face masks, Saudi Arabia imposes a 24-hour virus lockdown in five cities, while in Pakistan the outbreak reaches prisons.
Here are six stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East and beyond on 7 April:


1. Morocco threatens jail time if citizens are caught in public without face masks

Moroccans who leave their homes without wearing face masks could be slapped with prison sentences of up to three months and a fine of up to $126 (£102) under new government guidelines designed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The new decree was announced on Monday, following a government meeting about controlling the spread of the virus. The order will take effect on Tuesday.

The order will be relevant to those leaving their homes during the coronavirus lockdown, which commenced in the middle of March.

Face masks will be sold at a subsidised price of eight US cents each in order to maximise the number of people who have access to them.

2. Saudi imposes 24-hour virus lockdown in five cities

Saudi Arabia extended the duration of daily curfews Monday in four governorates and five cities - including the capital Riyadh - to 24 hours to combat the spread of coronavirus, as confirmed deaths in the kingdom from the disease hit 38.

The kingdom imposed round-the-clock lockdowns on the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran and Hofuf, the interior ministry said on Twitter.

The same measures were also imposed on the governorates of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Khobar, the ministry added.

Authorities had already sealed off the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, along with Riyadh and Jeddah, barring people from entering and exiting as well as prohibiting movement between all provinces.


3. Pakistan doctors jailed over virus protest 

Doctors in Pakistan were briefly jailed on Monday for protesting the lack of protective equipment to treat a growing outbreak of the coronavirus in one of the country's prisons.

Forty-seven doctors were detained after taking to the streets in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province, on Monday.

Though they were released on the same day, some have accused the police of maltreatment during their brief incarceration.

An army statement on Tuesday promised that "emergency supplies of medical equipment, including PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] are being dispatched to Quetta".

4. Saudi actress suggests using prisoners as medical lab rats in coronavirus testing

Maram Abdulaziz made a controversial suggestion to nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter, where she said "if it was up to me, I would not waste money on food and drink by imprisoning those that have been detained - especially on security grounds.

"I would make them experiments for new medication even if the results aren't guaranteed. This would serve as punishment for them but would also benefit the state," she said.

"Better them than mice and monkeys who have not harmed us," she added in the tweet, which has since been deleted.

5. Israel imposes coronavirus lockdown over Passover holiday

In a nationally televised address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government was further restricting movement during the Passover holiday, which begins Wednesday evening with a festive meal known as Seder.

"Every family will sit down for Seder night on its own. Celebrate only with the immediate family that's at home with you now," he said.

Beginning Tuesday afternoon, Israel will ban movement between cities. From Wednesday evening until Thursday morning Israelis will not be allowed to leave their homes.

Netanyahu said similar travel restrictions would be in place for the upcoming holidays of Easter and Ramadan later in April.

6. Ramadan and Eid-Al-Fitr may be impacted by coronavirus

A Saudi health ministry official has suggested that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the kingdom could last beyond Ramadan and Eid-Al-Fitr, during a national television appearance on Monday.

"I can sit here and predict as you please, but if you'd like a more scientific approach, the world has yet to see a peak in this pandemic, including here in Saudi Arabia," said Al-Abd Al-Ali. "We have to take extreme precautionary measures today for as long as is required."

"But we are not talking about weeks, we are talking about months?" the host asked. "Yes," the spokesman responded.


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