The Middle East at war with coronavirus

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 10 June
5 min read
10 June, 2020
In today's roundup: Turkey continue to ease restrictions, Iran sends aid to Venezuela and another UAE cargo plane lands in Israel without consulting Palestinians.
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. Turkey lifts coronavirus confinement order for over-65s, under-18s

Turkey will remove coronavirus confinement rules on people over 65 years old and those under 18, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Around 7.5 million over-65s will now be able to go out every day from 10 am to 8 pm, Erdogan said, relaxing a measure that had almost entirely forbidden them from going outside since March 21.

A similar prohibition imposed on under-18s on April 4 was also lifted, with the condition that young people still have to be with their parents when they are out, Erdogan said.

Turkey has eased most of the restrictions brought in to stem the virus - from reopening restaurants to allowing mass prayers at mosques - but the Turkish leader warned citizens must still wear masks outside and keep social distancing.

Read more here

2. WHO calls for new lockdowns in Pakistan as virus surges

The World Health Organization has told Pakistan it should implement "intermittent" lockdowns to counter a surge in coronavirus infections that has come as the country loosens restrictions, officials said.

Since the start of Pakistan's outbreak in March, Prime Minister Imran Khan opposed a nationwide lockdown of the sort seen elsewhere, arguing the impoverished country could not afford it.

Instead, Pakistan's four provinces ordered a patchwork of closures, but last week Khan said most of these restrictions would be lifted.

Health officials on Wednesday declared a record number of new cases in the past 24 hours. The country has now confirmed a total of more than 113,000 cases and 2,200 deaths - though with testing still limited, real rates are thought to be much higher.

"As of today, Pakistan does not meet any of the pre-requisite conditions for opening the lockdown", the WHO said in a letter confirmed by Pakistan officials on Tuesday.

Many people have not adopted behavioural changes such as social distancing and frequent hand-washing, meaning "difficult" decisions will be required including "intermittent lockdowns" in targeted areas, the letter states.

Read more here

3. Iran boosts Venezuela ties with new coronavirus aid shipment

Iran has sent a shipment of humanitarian aid to help Venezuelans tackle Covid-19, another sign of strengthening relations between the two countries that are both under steep US sanctions.

Planning Minister Ricardo Menendez said Iran gave vital medical supplies and testing kits to help Venezuela against its fight against the novel coronavirus.

Only 2,377 coronavirus infections and 22 deaths have been confirmed in the Latin American country, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University. However, health experts are warning figures may be substantially higher due to the country's dire economic situation, which has severely undermined health funding.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government blames that on US sanctions, including against state oil company PDVSA, but many analysts say the regime has failed to invest in or maintain infrastructure over the past decades.

This humanitarian effort comes after a recent shipment of five tankers of crude oil was sent to Caracas, which President Nicolas Maduro said he would honour with a visit to Tehran as soon as possible.

"I am obliged to go to personally thank the people," Maduro said in a television address.

Read more here

4. Second UAE cargo plane lands in Israel without consulting Palestinians 

An Etihad Airways cargo plane, carrying cornavirus aid from the UAE to Palestinians, landed in Israel on Tuesday, the second ever direct commercial flight between the two countries and another act of normalisation by Abu Dhabi.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Tuesday he was unaware of the aid delivery, casting doubts over whether the government would accept the aid delivery.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner which arrived at Ben Gurion Airport bore the airline's logo and the Emirati flag - the first time a flight to Israel had carried the UAE national carrier's livery.

It prompted many observers to point out the gradual normalisation of ties between the two countries.

Last month, an unmarked Etihad commercial flight carrying medical equipment for the Palestinians landed in Israel - the first-ever direct commercial flight between the UAE and Israel, sparking uproar in the Arab world.

Israel's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the aid would be transferred to Gaza and the Palestinian Authority by the UN and COGAT, Israel's military body in the occupied West Bank.

It said the plane's arrival was coordinated with Israeli authorities.

However Shtayyeh said that the Palestinian Authority had not been informed.

Read more here

5. Meet Feby, the unemployed Filipina who feeds other jobless migrants in Dubai

Feby Dela Peña saw her fellow Filipinos standing in line outside her building in Dubai, waiting for free food. And she was stricken - what if her family, too, had lost their income amid the Covid-19 outbreak? How would she have fed her three children?

Dela Peña is unemployed. "We're poor, to be honest," she said. "But it's not a reason for me not to help, you know?"

So the next day, she pulled out the money that was supposed to feed her family of five for a month. When their 11 housemates got wind of her plan - like most migrant workers in Dubai, the family lives in a shared apartment - those who could chipped in as well.

She was able to buy about 500 dirhams, or $136, worth of groceries, including 30 frozen chickens and sacks of rice. And she began to cook.

That is how Dela Peña launched the project she calls Ayuda - help, in Filipino, a language heavily influenced by Spanish colonial rule. Each day, she offers 200 free meals to the hungry of Dubai, all of them foreigners, like her own family.

Migrants account for 90% of the workforce in the United Arab Emirates. The economic shutdown that came with Covid-19 has hit their communities hard.

Read more here

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