The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories

The Middle East at war with coronavirus: Top stories from 9 April
4 min read
09 April, 2020
Up to 150 Saudi royals have contracted coronavirus, and detained Rohingya Muslims are freed in Myanmar as coronavirus fears mount are just some of our biggest stories today.
Here's your daily update [Getty]
Here are five stories you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting the Middle East and beyond on 9 April:


1. Up to 150 Saudi royals may have contracted coronavirus

The House of Saud has been hit with an influx of coronavirus cases, and it is believed 150 members of the royal family are believed to be infected, including a senior Saudi prince, according to a report in The New York Times.

An internal memo sent out at King Faisal Specialist Hospital, an elite medical centre which treats members of royal family, was obtained by NYT.

In anticipation of a influx of royals, preparations are being made to set up 500 beds, according to the memo.

The document suggests that the projected numbers of cases will be so substantial and that all chronically-ill patients "will be moved out ASAP".  Only "top cases" will be accepted, it added.

Even sick staff members will now be treated at a less elite hospital to make room for the royals, the memo adds.

2. Detained Rohingya Muslims freed as coronavirus fears mount

Cases against many Rohingya Muslims detained after fleeing Myanmar's Rakhine state have been dropped, as fears grow of a potential coronavirus outbreak in the country's overcrowded prisons.

A military crackdown in 2017 forced some 750,000 Rohingya to escape to Bangladesh, where the refugees languish in sprawling refugee cities.

On Wednesday, a court suddenly dropped cases against two of the largest groups of arrested Rohingya, totalling 128 people.

"Charges against both adults and children are withdrawn and they are to be released," judge Khin Myat Myat Htun told Pathein court in Ayeyarwady Region.

An AFP reporter confirmed four buses carrying the Rohingya and bound for Yangon left Pathein prison early Thursday morning, with scores more set to be released and sent back to Rakhine.


3. Saudi-led coalition in Yemen declares two-week ceasefire to deal with coronavirus
 
A ceasefire in Yemen, which will begin on Thursday, could bring some relief to the war-torn country amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Saudi official.

The Riyadh-led military coalition fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels declared a two-week ceasefire in the country starting on, in a bid to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus, a Saudi official said.

The unilateral ceasefire follows an escalation in fighting between the Riyadh-led coalition and Yemen's Houthi rebels despite a call by the United Nations for a calm in violence to protect civilians in the Arab world's poorest nation.

"We are announcing a ceasefire starting (Thursday) for two weeks," the official told reporters on Wednesday.

"We are expecting the Houthis will accept. We are preparing the ground to fight Covid-19" in Yemen.

4. Half of Calais migrants could catch coronavirus in coming month

The coronavirus is spreading among refugees in northern France, with infections set to rise "exponentially" without urgent action from the authorities, a Calais-based refugee charity has warned.

Read More: For Middle East refugees, social distancing is a privilege few can afford

Care4Calais, provides emergency services to more than 1,000 refugees and migrants based around the city, and last week, the number of people showing symptoms of the new coronavirus jumped from three to nine in just three days, according to a report in The Guardian.

"Although numbers are still low, there is no way to contain the spread in these terrible conditions," Care4Calais founder Clare Moseley told the paper.

Such makeshift camps lack proper sanitation and running water. Their food supplies are in the red following the lockdown and close proximity to one another due to overcrowding means the camp cannot implement prevention measures like social distancing.

The charity says without prevention measures "the spread of the disease could be exponential, and we estimate that half the population could be infected within four weeks".


5. Egypt closes hospital after 21 medics test positive for coronavirus

Makram Radwan, a member of Egypt's parliamentary health committee, announced the closure of Sadr Dikirnis Hospital in Dakahlia Governorate for three days after 21 positive cases of coronavirus were discovered, including among doctors, nurses, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

The hospital had reported its first suspected case of coronavirus last week and is expected to reopen after it has been fully sterilised. 

Hundreds of medical and administrative staff are being quarantined in a separate hospital in Mansoura whilst they await their results.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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