The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 1 May

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 1 May
4 min read
01 May, 2020
Lebanon's protesters defy coronavirus lockdown, while Iran's daily Covid-19 death rate drops drastically. Here's your daily update.
Here's your daily coronavirus update [TNA]
Here are five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East on 1 May:

1. Lebanon's demonstrators defy coronavirus lockdown to protest on International Labour Day

Protesters across Lebanon took to the streets on Friday in defiance of the country's coronavirus lockdown.

Social media posts showed Beirut demonstrators heading to the capital's downtown area, the focal point of Lebanon's ongoing protests, to demonstrate against the country's financial crisis.

Other cities, such as Kafr Roummane and Aley, also saw protesters on their streets.

The annual International Labour Day - also known as May Day - often sees protests around the world.

This year's demonstrations, however, were expected to be calmer given the pandemic.

Friday's protests in Lebanon began peacefully, Lebanon's Daily Star reported, in contrast to the recent daily clashes between protesters and the army, which led to the death of a 26-year-old protester on Monday.

Demonstrators in northern Lebanon have vandalised banks and clashed with security forces for three consecutive nights, re-energising a protest movement launched in October against a political class that activists deem inept and corrupt.

Lebanon's coronavirus lockdown has only added to the country's economic woes, which include inflation, a liquidity crunch and a plummeting currency.

2. Covid-19 death rate drops in Iran

Iran on Friday reported 63 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, saying the rate of fatalities and infections were dropping while calling on the public to remain vigilant.

The deaths recorded in the past 24 hours brought the overall virus death toll to 6,091 in the Middle East's hardest-hit country.

"We have seen drops in the numbers of infections and deaths in recent days," said health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour on state television.

"The process of managing the disease is continuing," he added.

Jahanpour expressed hope that Iran would get close to "controlling" the outbreak with people observing health protocols.

The new infections brought Iran's total recorded cases to 95,646.

More than 76,300 of those had already been released from hospital after recovering.

Of those still being treated, 2,899 were in critical condition.

3. Turkish police detain gathered union leaders on May Day during coronavirus lockdown

Police in Istanbul detained at least 15 people on Friday, including trade union leaders who tried to stage a May Day march in defiance of a coronavirus lockdown and a ban on demonstrations at a historic square.

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, or DISK, tweeted that its head Arzu Cerkezoglu and several other union leaders were detained near Taksim Square, where they wanted to lay wreaths of carnations.

Images showed police and demonstrators wearing masks and face-guards and tense, close contact.

The Istanbul governor's office said the demonstrators were later released. The statement added that various trade unions had left wreaths in Taksim Square as permitted by the governor's office but that DISK had insisted on collectively marching to the square, which was in breach of lockdown and social distancing rules.

Taksim Square holds a symbolic value for Turkey's labour movement. In 1977, 34 people were killed there during a May Day event when shots were fired into the crowd from a nearby building.

Turkey has imposed partial lockdowns in 31 provinces every weekend and on national holidays. Exemptions apply, including for many labourers who continue to work amid the andemic. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the country must continue production to ensure the economic "wheels continue turning".

4. Jordan expected to lose up to 80,000 jobs amid pandemic

Jordan is expected to lose between 50,000 to 80,000 jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, a labor civil society organisation said Friday.

Marking International Labour Day, Jordanian organisation Worker House said Jordan's job sector is likely to take a hard hit from the global health crisis.

At the end of 2019, the kingdom's unemployment rate had already reached "unprecedented levels" at 19.1 percent, the highest in the country's history, the organisation said.

Workers in Jordan's informal job sector, who represent 48 percent of the country's workforce, are particularly vulnerable to losing their jobs and sources of income.

Last week, Jordan slowly began reopening its businesses before Ramadan, allowing additional sectors to work at 30 percent manpower.

The government set out some conditions for businesses to reopen, including a requirement to register with social security and priority given to Jordanian workers.

5. Qatar coronavirus tent clinics collapse in storm

Twenty-three staff at a hospital in Qatar were injured when tents being used to boost capacity in response to the novel coronavirus collapsed in a fierce storm, local media reported Friday.

Winds of up to 72 kilometres per hour caused two expansion tents at Hazm Mebaireek General Hospital in Qatar's Industrial Area to collapse on Thursday, the Gulf Times reported.

No patients were hurt and most injuries to staff were minor, the daily added, citing the health ministry.

The hospital's executive director said the incident was being treated "very seriously" and that an investigation has been launched.

The Industrial Area, a gritty, densely-populated district mostly home to migrant labourers, has been the epicentre of Qatar's outbreak.

Tens of thousands of residents were quarantined in the area after cases of novel coronavirus were confirmed among the community in mid-March.

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