Confirmed COVID-19 cases exceed 10,000 in Mideast, Iran as worst-hit

2020-03-13 06:31:02 GMT2020-03-13 14:31:02(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

CAIRO, March 12 (Xinhua) -- With the total COVID-19 cases climbing over 10,000 on Thursday, the Middle East is facing an alarming situation posed by the raging pandemic.

In Iran alone, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection totalled 10,075 on Thursday, roughly three weeks after the first cases were reported on Feb. 19. The death toll from the novel coronavirus in Iran so far stood at 429.

Iran has been trying its best to implement necessary measures in accordance with WHO guidelines such as securing standard quarantine, banning public gatherings, and suspending schools.

But years of suffocating sanctions imposed by the United States has made the situation worse in Iran, which faces severe shortage of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus.

This has prompted Tehran to call for international help to lift the U.S. sanctions. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday wrote a letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, calling for removing all the unilateral U.S. sanctions.

In his letter, a copy of which was sent to all international organizations' chiefs and foreign ministers of all countries, Zarif highlighted the need for lifting all "illegal" U.S. sanctions to help Iran combat the virus.

Also on Thursday, Iran's central bank said it has asked the International Monetary Fund for a 5-billion-U.S.-dollar loan to help its fight against the COVID-19.

Although Iran continues to make headlines as the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, some other countries in the region are also facing the threat from the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Qatar and Bahrain now have the most confirmed cases in the region after Iran, with 262 and 189, respectively.

In Israel, 109 people have been confirmed infected with COVID-19 after 12 new cases were detected on Thursday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the formation of "an emergency national government" to address the coronavirus crisis. He ordered the closure of all schools at least until April 16, though kindergartens and special education institutions will continue to operate normally.

The United Arab Emirates on Thursday, which was one of the first countries in the Middle East to be affected by the COVID-19, announced 11 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 85.

In Iraq, a total of 83 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed so far, of whom eight have died.

The Iraqi government called on all citizens and institutions to implement the recommendations issued by the health ministry accurately in order to prevent "a health disaster."

In Egypt, 13 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Thursday, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 80.

Egypt also reported a new death from the coronavirus, who was a 60-year-old Egyptian lady. This was the second such death in Egypt since a 60-year-old German tourist died from the infection on March 8.

Kuwait has recorded a total of 80 confirmed COVID-19 cases, after eight new cases were reported on Thursday. The Kuwaiti government suspended the commercial flights to and from the country on Thursday.

Lebanon on Thursday reported its third death from COVID-19, while a total of 71 cases have been confirmed. A day earlier, Lebanon allocated 39 million U.S. dollars from a loan offered by the World Bank for the fight against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Algeria, with 26 confirmed cases and two deaths, and Morocco, with six confirmed cases, agreed on Thursday to suspend bilateral flights as a precautionary measure against the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Responding to the call for help from the region, China, which has accumulated rich experience in containing the disease, has lent a hand to the countries.

Two Chinese medical teams having been assisting Iran and Iraq in their fights against the coronavirus, in addition to the donation of much-needed medical supplies to several countries in the Middle East.

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