03/23/2020, 19.02
MIDDLE EAST
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As the coronavirus spreads in the Middle East, first cases reported in Syria and Gaza

Iran remains the most affected country with more than 21,000 cases and more than 1,600 deaths. Its surpeme leader rejects offers of US help. Iraq imposes a curfew and closes borders. Saudi Arabia goes on 21-day lockdown. Exceptional containment measures are taken in the West Bank.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The coronavirus emergency is spreading in the Middle East, with the first cases reported over the weekend in Syria and the Gaza Strip. More and more countries are imposing a total curfew, closing borders and suspending international flights.

The most critical situation remains that of Iran, where the number of victims and infections keeps rising. Despite this, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has rejected offers of help and medicines from the United States.

Yesterday in Syria, the authorities confirmed the first COVID-19 case, and announced new preventive measures to stem the spread of the epidemic in a country still at war.

Health Minister Nizar Yaziji explained that the infected person “comes from abroad,” without specifying where the infection occurred. The Interior minister suspended public transit and the postponed local elections, from 13 April to May 20.

The Gaza Strip reported its first two cases of coronavirus. Some 33 cases were reported yesterday in neighbouring Egypt, bringing the total to 327, with four more deaths for a total of 14.

In Iran, the number of infections topped 21,000 with 1,685 deaths, 129 in the past 24 hours. “There were 1,028 new confirmed infected cases in the past 24 hours... and 7,913 people have recovered,” a Health Ministry's spokesman said

As of yesterday until 28 March, Iraq is under a curfew with its borders sealed. So far, 233 cases have been reported, with 20 death. About 2,000 people have been tested.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh issued strict containment measures. Starting yesterday people cannot leave their homes, except for those who work in hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, in food stores and supermarkets. People will be able to shop.

The West Bank has 59 COVID-19 cases, with 17 people already healed. The authorities also placed under quarantine all those returning from abroad.

In Israel, 1,234 people have been infected, with a sharp rise due to greater coronavirus testing.

Of the 1,234 people diagnosed with coronavirus, 1,142 had mild cases, 24 moderate cases and 24 serious ones - an increase of four people in serious condition. One person, an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor, died over the weekend. So far 37 people have recovered.

A 21-day curfew starts tonight in Saudi Arabia. Local authorities have confirmed 511 cases, no deaths, and 17 recovered.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the authorities suspended international flights. Overall, 153 cases have been reported with two deaths and 38 recovered.

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