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The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 29 May

Here's your daily round up [TNA]

Date of publication: 29 May, 2020

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Algeria extends lockdown measures in 44 provinces, while Turkey eases lockdown restrictions as mosques reopen for mass prayers. Here are your most important coronavirus updates from the Middle East.

Here are five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on 29 May:
1. Algeria extends lockdown in 44 provinces 

Algeria has extended a lockdown throughout most of the country in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The government announced in a statement that a partial lockdown in 44 of the country's 48 provinces until 15 June. The lockdown was originally due to end on 1 June.

The lockdown will be in force between 7pm and 7am local time in 28 provinces, while in 16 provinces, it will be imposed between 5pm and 7am local time, the statement added.

The lockdown was lifted in the remaining four provinces.

Read more here.

2. North Darfur activists record alarming rise in suspected coronavirus deaths 

Doctors in Sudan's North Darfur state have recorded a spike in deaths over the past two weeks, and concerns have arisen that they might indicate a coronavirus outbreak which could be disastrous for this area of Sudan, which is still suffering from the effects of a devastating conflict.

Read more: Digital diplomacy: How technology could reshape Middle East politics in the age of coronavirus

Activists have been recording deaths among their relatives in the town of El Fasher, where some 200,000 people live, prompting worries that Covid-19 could be killing older people in their homes, The Guardian reports.

On some days, more than 60 deaths have been recorded by activists, although numbers could be much higher as most people are avoiding hospitals. There is, however, no official coronavirus death toll

The official figures say that there are only 30 cases of coronavirus in El Fasher, and UN and Afican Union peacekeeping forces say that seven of their members have caught the Covid-19 virus at their base in the city.

Read more here.

3. UN urges $2.4 billion to help Yemen cope with war and coronavirus

The UN humanitarian chief urgently appealed for $2.4 billion to help millions of people in Yemen cope with the conflict and coronavirus, saying programs are already being cut and the situation is “alarming.”

Mark Lowcock told a UN briefing Thursday that the UN received $3.2 billion last year for Yemen because countries in the region — including Saudi Arabia and the UAE who are involved in the conflict — stepped up aid.

This year, the UN has appealed for about $3.4 billion but as of Wednesday it had only received $516.6 million, just over 15%. The Saudis pledged $525 million in early April and Lowcock said he hopes it will quickly be turned into cash.

Read more here.

4. Turkish mosques reopen for mass prayers as coronavirus restriction ease

Turkish mosques on Friday reopened for mass prayers more than two months after they had shut down, as the government eased restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Turkey has been shifting since May to a "new normal" by loosening lockdown measures and opening shopping malls, barbers and hair salons.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said many other sites -- restaurants and cafes as well as libraries, parks and beaches - will reopen from Monday.

Hundreds of worshippers wearing protective masks performed mass prayers outside Istanbul's historic Blue Mosque for the first time since mosques were shut down in March.

Read more here.

5. Israel 'attempted to save' diplomat behind Sudan normalisation who died due to coronavirus
Yesterday it was reported that Israel sent a jet with medical supplies and staff to Sudan in an effort to save the life of a diplomat who later died of coronavirus.

Najwa Gadaheldam had been instrumental in pushing for normalisation between the two countries, who are technically still at war.

However 24 hours after the medical plane arrived, the diplomat died due to complications related to Covid-19.

The plane landed in Khartoum on Tuesday and carried a senior official involved in the normalisation process, as well as staff and equipment, according to a report by Israeli Channel 13.

According to the television report, the team had planned to transport Gadaheldam to Israel for treatment but when they arrived, she was already in critical condition.

Read more here.

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