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

The New Arab

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

Turkey's coronavirus death toll in decline, among other positive developments this week [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 May, 2020

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Top five stories highlighting the Middle East’s resilience in the face of the novel coronavirus this week.
The novel coronavirus has now infected over 4.6 million people globally. In the absence of a vaccine, Covid-19 continues to spread across the world, while more than 1.7 million patients have already recovered from infection.
Several countries accross the Middle East have eased some coronavirus restrictions, allowing businesses to reopen under strict regulations.

After gaining some control over outbreak, the Middle East has seen some positive advancements. Every week, The New Arab reports five uplifting regional news. Here are out top picks from this week:

1) Qatar Airways giveaway rewards healthcare workers with free flights for fighting coronavirus

Health workers worldwide are receiving round trip tickets as a 'thank you' for their role in fighting the coronavirus.

The Qatar Airways giveaway opened for online registrations on Thursday, marking International Nurses Day, and will close early next week. Winners will be able to book flights to any destination the airline flies free of charge.

"Their heroic display of kindness, dedication, and professionalism has saved hundreds of thousands of lives around the world," the state-owned flag-carrier's Chief Executive, Akbar Al-Baker, was quoted as saying.

"Now it is our turn to give something back to those on the healthcare frontline," Baker said.

Medical staff - doctors, medical practitioners, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, lab technicians and clinical researchers - will be selected daily to receive Qatar Airways promotion codes.

The promos can be used by medics to book up to two economy-class roundtrip tickets - one for themselves and one for a companion. "There are no words or gestures that are enough to repay these brave men and women," Baker said.

As travel restrictions start to ease, Baker said the workers could also use the tickets to visit a travel destination "they have always dreamed of".

2) Tunisia eases lockdown and allows shops to reopen

Retail shops and supermarkets reopened on Friday in Tunisia after the government announced zero coronavirus cases for the fifth consecutive day.

In a statement published overnight, the health ministry also said that 217 patients still carry the Covid-17 virus, three of whom are being treated in hospital.

Retail shops and supermarkets reopened Friday in Tunisia [Getty]

But the fifth consecutive day, no new cases were registered in the North African country which has declared 1,032 cases of coronavirus, including 45 deaths, since March 2.

With infections slowing, retail stores, open-air markets and supermarkets have reopened, but authorities are urging citizens to stay vigilant and respect hygiene measures.

After shops reopened, three additional coronavirus cases were reported on Saturday, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The Tunisian ministry of health has launched a coronavirus awareness campaign on the streets of the capital to encourage people to wear protective masks.

Health Minister Abd al-Latif al-Makki and a number of ministry personnel distributed the coronavirus masks as part of a campaign to urge people to wear them, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

Tunisia started easing strict confinement measures last week.

3) Medical NGO flies coronavirus supplies to be used in Syria 

In the past week, two charter planes have been flown to Iraq, bringing tonnes of essential medical supplies to Medecins sans Frontiere [MSF] staff in support of coronavirus response in northeast Syria.

Two flights landed in Erbil International Airport, Iraq, which were then shipped across the border to MSF staff following a 14 day quarantine period in Erbil.

"This will allow us to continue essential medical services and continue our support in the Covid-19 response in northeast Syria," MSF, which has been working in the region to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak, said.

To date, there have been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with one fatality recorded in northeast Syria. This comes as the United Nations decided to halt funding for pandemic relief in the region.

Read full story: MSF flies coronavirus supplies to Syria via Iraq as UN halts pandemic funding


4) Turkey coronavirus death toll drops to lowest since end of March


Turkey has recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus deaths per day since the end of March, the latest figures released by the Turkish health ministry revealed on Saturday.

Turkey's senior citizens were be outside for six hours on Sunday [Getty]
The ministry said 41 more people have died from coronavirus infection in the past 24 hours, bringing the nation's total death toll to 4,096. According to Reuters, the death rate is the lowest recorded in the country since the end of March.

"You have the right to come out and take a breath. Today, between the hours of 12:00 and 18:00 the streets are yours. To protect yourself, do not forget to wear mask and follow the 1.5 meter social distance rule," Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Sunday. 

Fifteen provinces, including Istanbul, are on a four-day lockdown which came into effect on Friday. Turkey has instituted partial lockdowns to combat the novel coronavirus.
Older adults above 65, as well as those aged 20 and under were not allowed to leave their homes until recently

Turkey has also eased other measures, including the opening of shopping centres and hair salons.

Read more: Trump hopes for Covid-19 vaccine by end of year, 'maybe before'

5) Moroccan pharmaceuticals specialist offered to head US coronavirus vaccine effort

A Moroccan former pharmaceutical and vaccine specialist has reportedly been scouted by the US in a bid to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which is causing havoc across the world.

A former head of GlaxoSmithKline’s vaccine division, Moncef Slaoui is touted to serve in US President Donald Trump's administration to develop the vaccines as vaccine chief head, three sources told Politico.

The venture capitalist is tapped to be one of the heads of Operation Warp Speed, a White House initiative pushing to develop and distribute potential Covid-19 vaccines despite the fact that experts believe a vaccine is unlikely until next year.

Slaoui had been named on Wednesday, according to a senior administration official.

The ex-pharmaceutical head was the chair of the vaccines division at the British multinational company, and is now a partner at Medicxi Capital, a Philadelphia venture capital firm.


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