03/13/2020, 14.11
MIDDLE EAST
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Coronavirus helping Netanyahu, Bahrain slams Iran

Israel’s outgoing prime minister, on trial, is seeking an emergency government. Gantz is open to the idea but wants it "broad" and representative. Bahrain accuses Iran of "biological aggression". In the Gulf States, the number of infections is rising, but at present no one has died yet. The emergency continues in Iran with more than 10,000 cases and 429 deaths.

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – As new cases are confirmed across the Middle East region, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to use the coronavirus emergency to remain in power despite a recent election, the third in a year, without winners.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption (the first hearing set for 17 March), ordered the closure of most of the country's primary and secondary schools and called for a national unity government.

“We are altering our internal routine in order to handle an outside threat, the threat of the virus,” Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast live. This will require “an emergency government for a limited time”.

His main rival, Benny Gantz, hasn’t rejected the idea, but wants the government to be broadly based and represent everyone.

So far, 109 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country and more than 32,000 people are now in quarantine.

Meanwhile, Bahrain has accused Iran, the country with the highest number of cases in the region, of covering up the spread of the epidemic.

“With this behaviour, Iran has allowed the disease to travel abroad, and, in my estimation, this constitutes a form of biological aggression” tweeted Bahraini Interior Minister General Sheikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.

Amir Abdollahian, special aide to Iran’s parliamentary speaker, reacted quickly, tweeting that “America, which rules Bahrain through the presence of its Fifth Fleet, is a major cause of biological warfare and initially denied the existence of coronavirus.”

Bahrain on Wednesday reported 77 new infections among its citizens repatriated from Iran, bringing its total to 195 cases.

Saudi Arabia, which has suspended pilgrimages and asked believers not to take part in Friday prayers, announced 24 new cases for a total of 45.

Kuwait reported eight new infections, taking its total to 80, and started a two-week public holiday to help contain the virus.

The United Arab Emirates reported 11 new cases, for a total of 85. The Sultanate of Oman, which has 18 cases, suspended tourist visas and banned cruise ships from docking.

So far, no one in the Gulf States has died from the virus. The worse situation remains that of Iran, which has more than 10,000 cases, 429 deaths and just under 3,000 people who have recovered.

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