The Middle East at war with coronavirus

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 30 May
3 min read
30 May, 2020
Egypt orders covering face in public, Iran reopens mosques across the country, Turkey to resume national flights and other stories in today's roundup.
Top stories from the Middle East [TNA]
Five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on May 30:

1. Egypt orders the wearing of face masks in public

Egypt on Saturday ordered its people to wear face masks in public, when taking private transportation, and inside government offices as it eases the partial lockdown imposed during the weeklong Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said violators will be fined. He said the nationwide curfew will be 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for another two weeks.

Egypt, the Arab World’s most populous country, has seen a jump of daily reported infections in the past week, with a total of 879 deaths among 22,082 confirmed cases. The country of 100 million people has the highest announced deaths from Covid-19 in the Arab World.

2. Iran announces collective prayers to restart nationwide

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani announced on Saturday that collective prayers will resume in mosques, even as confirmed new coronavirus infections rise again after a decline.

"It has been decided to open the mosques across the country... giving worshippers the chance to perform their daily prayers while respecting the required (hygiene) rules," Rouhani said in a televised speech. 

Iran, hit by the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of the virus, began to loosen restrictions on human interaction in April, classifying areas as white, orange and red - respectively indicating low, medium and high risk for coronavirus infections.

Rouhani said on Saturday that the reopening of mosques for daily prayer "would not only be in white zones," but did not elaborate on when the eased measures would take effect.

Authorities had progressively closed mosques across Iran after confirming the first coronavirus infections in February. Read more here.

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3. Turkey to resume domestic flights in June

Turkey's national airline will resume flights to five local provinces in June, as coronavirus measures are relaxed.

Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said on Saturday that domestic flights would resume "gradually" starting from June 1.

Turkish Airlines will start to operate domestic flights to İstanbul, Ankara, Antalya, İzmir and Trabzon starting on Tuesday – over a month after all domestic and international flights were halted late in April. Read more here.

4. UEFA mulls moving Champions League final away from Istanbul

UEFA is planning to move the Champions League final away from Istanbul and is considering other locations as planning and scheduling is shaken up by the coronavirus pandemic.

The UEFA executive committee will meet on June 17 to examine the findings of a working group that has been assessing how to complete competitions that were suspended in March and are likely to finish without any fans in stadiums.

UEFA is aiming to complete its elite club competition in August after the delayed domestic leagues of the remaining sides have managed to conclude. The Champions League round of 16 has yet to be fully completed.

The Champions League final was due to be staged this Saturday - May 30 - at Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul. Read more here.

5. Turkish mosques reopen for mass prayers

Turkish mosques reopened on Friday for mass prayers after more than two months as the government further eased strict restrictions to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Turkey has been shifting since May to a "new normal" by easing lockdown measures and opening shopping malls, barbershops 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.

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