The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 9 June

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 9 June
3 min read
09 June, 2020
In today's roundup: Iran launches 'corona police' force to enforce lockdown as health minister says "one in five" may have been infected.
Today's coronavirus daily update [TNA]
Five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on June 9.

1. One in five Iranians may have had virus, says health official

Nearly one in five Iranians may have been infected with the novel coronavirus since the country's outbreak started in February, a health official said on Tuesday.

"About 15 million Iranians may have experienced being infected with this virus since the outbreak began," said Ehsan Mostafavi, a member of the task force set up to combat Covid-19.

This meant the virus was "much less lethal than we or the world had anticipated", the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

The figure represents 18.75 percent of the more than 80 million population of Iran, which on Tuesday announced another 74 deaths from the coronavirus. Read more here.

2. Iran launches 'corona police' to tackle lockdown rebels

Also in Iran, the republic has launched an "unprecedented" security apparatus to tackle the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, as the toll from the virus continued to rise months after the disease was first detected.

The "corona police" force is designed to contain the outbreak, governor of Iran's Abadan city, Zain-ul-Abideen Mousavi said. 

The unit has been given powers to arrest and quarantine individuals in public who have tested positive for Covid-19, the official said.

They will then stand trial for failing to abide by lockdown measures while infected with coronavirus. 

A committee combining a range of skilled workers, including students, doctors and other police personnel, will supervise the force and visit patients at home, the official added. Read more here.

3. Iraq authorities continue to enforce virus lockdown

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Iraqi authorities continued to enforce a curfew on Tuesday, as all areas of public gatherings remained closed in a bid to curb the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

The streets of Baghdad were deserted amid the restrictions.

Iraqi police set up checkpoints and soldiers were deployed in the capital to enforce the lockdown.

Schools, universities, parks, malls and places of worship will also remain closed in Iraq. Read more here.

4. Saudi Arabia records highest daily coronavirus increase

Saudi Arabia recorded its highest jump in new coronavirus infections on Monday, prompting the kingdom to close down 71 mosques, citing a lack of adherence to health measures.

The Gulf state confirmed 3,369 new Covid-19 cases over a 24-hour period - the highest daily increase since the outbreak in early March, according to Arabi21.

The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs has closed 71 mosques in various regions after infections surged among worshippers, according to a tweet by the ministry.

The mosques will be sterilised before receiving worshippers again, the government body said. Read more here.

5. Cyprus welcomes first tourist flights since March

Cyprus welcomed its first tourists after nearly three months of coronavirus lockdown on Tuesday with flights scheduled from Israel, Greece and Bulgaria.

Cyprus is marketing itself as a relatively safe holiday destination in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, with a transmission rate below one and a very low mortality rate.

The Mediterranean island's main airport at Larnaca reopened to passengers for the first time since a ban on commercial flights was imposed on 21 March.

"After two and a half months, the connectivity of our island with 19 other countries returns. Cypriot airports open with optimism with the first flight arriving at Larnaca from Israel," Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos tweeted.

According to the airport's operator Hermes, five arrivals and five departures were scheduled from Larnaca on Tuesday. 

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