The coronavirus situation is getting worse
DUBAI / MUMBAI / WASHINGTON / TEHERAN / BEIJING / LONDON / HARARE / ROME: Coronavirus has infected over 150,000 people worldwide and has killed nearly 6,000 since it was discovered in China last December. No session of shisha pipes, deserted streets, mosques and shopping centers, drones in the sky that transmit public health warnings: the new coronavirus has changed life in Gulf societies.
More than 800 cases of COVID-19 have been registered so far in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, but so far no deaths. Most of the infected people were returning from neighboring Iran, where over 700 people died on Sunday.
Faced with a growing threat to public health, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman have taken drastic measures to combat the pandemic. “It’s as if it were the weekend today and not the beginning of the week,” said AF al-Hashem, who has been living in Dubai for 15 years, on a largely deserted road on Sunday, the beginning of the week in the Gulf .
Kuwait has taken the most stringent measures in the GCC by largely blocking the country over the weekend, the only nation other than Italy to do so. The main road at Kuwait City airport was empty as all commercial flights to and from the small Gulf nation were suspended. Drones in the skies were playing messages in multiple languages to urge people to go home.
In the capital of Qatar, Doha, the lively market in the heart of the tourist center was strangely silent, while the Riyadh shopping district was also barren. The Gulf countries have closed cinemas and other entertainment centers – some even closing gyms and spas – as well as stopping one of the region’s favorite pastimes, smoking shishas in cafes.
Residents of the Muscat Omani capital told AFP that there was a great deal of “fear and panic” about what many of them called “Corona phobia” at a time when a small bottle of disinfectant is in their pockets. or in the bags of almost everyone. They said many people stopped shaking hands or kissing their cheeks, a greeting common throughout the Arab world.
In Saudi Arabia, Abu Abdulrahman, 60, said he was uneasy about the rapidly changing social norms. “Shake my hand and kiss or not? I don’t know,” he said. “I try not to, but I’m embarrassed. What if the other person reaches out first?”
Meanwhile, both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have advised their citizens to stop the traditional “nose to nose” greeting, with Abu Dhabi instructing residents that a wave would suffice. Measures to combat the spread of the virus have also influenced the way many Muslims worship in the Gulf. After Saudi Arabia suspended the “Umrah” pilgrimage year-round, he advised residents not to pray in mosques if they exhibited symptoms of the virus.
Kuwait has taken further steps and has banned all mass prayers, an unprecedented move in a country where hundreds of thousands pray side by side every day. “Pray at home, pray at home,” an imam preached in a recording that went viral on social media on Saturday.
Meanwhile, India has suspended land border crossings with Pakistan indefinitely from March 16 at midnight to combat the coronavirus epidemic. According to a notification from the Ministry of Interior of the Indian Union, all types of passenger movements are suspended from March 15 to midnight.
However, diplomats and United Nations personnel with valid visas may be admitted through the Attari crossing along the border between India and Pakistan. The visit to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur was also suspended for Sikh pilgrims with the new order. The decision to close access to Kartarpur Sahib came on Sunday with the Indian government announcing the suspension of the trip and registration for Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan from midnight on March 16th until further orders.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has tested negative for the coronavirus novel, his doctor said, following concerns about his exposure to a disease that has paralyzed the world. Trump accepted the test after contacting several members of a Brazilian presidential delegation visiting his Florida resort, who have since tested positive for the virus.
“I received confirmation tonight that the test is negative,” said President Sean Conley’s doctor in a Saturday reminder.
Trump, 73, had dismissed concerns about his exposure to the disease that killed at least 51 Americans and reversed the pace of daily life across the country, with millions of people working from home and school. Vice President Mike Pence announced further obstacles to travel to the United States, saying that a ban on pandemic for European nations would extend to the UK and Ireland on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Iran has closed a key grave and called on Sunday for its citizens to stay home to stop a coronavirus outbreak that said it caused over 700 victims and infected nearly 14,000 people. The overall new tolls announced by the ministry of health included 113 more deaths and 1,209 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection.
People “should cancel all trips and stay home so that we can see the situation improve in the next few days,” said ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. In line with measures to stop the virus, the tomb of Imam Reza in the holy Shiite city of Iran in Mashhad has been closed to pilgrims until further notice. “Currently, the arcades of the mausoleum and generally all the covered spaces of the sacred sanctuary are closed,” a spokesman for the sanctuary told AFP.
All collective prayers had also been canceled “except in open spaces and courtyards” of the sanctuary, he added.
The latest suspect case was Ayatollah Hashem Bahtayi Golpayegani, a member of the Assembly of Experts, who is charged with appointing and monitoring Iran’s supreme leader. President Hassan Rouhani denied that blockades were imposed on entire areas and that provincial officials were not allowed to decide on them. “Neither today, nor during Nowrouz, before or after, we have no quarantine and all commercial activities are free and public services will continue,” said Rouhani at a television press conference with entrepreneurs. Rouhani has announced a series of measures designed to ease pressure on businesses, including later deadlines for paying taxes, loans and bills.
China reported 16 new imported coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest in over a week, while domestic cases decline in the country.
The National Health Commission reported that infections involving people arriving from overseas have been reported in five provinces and cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. Only four new internal cases have been detected, all in the capital of Hubei province, Wuhan, where the virus first surfaced in December.
There have now been 111 imported infections, with regions outside of Hubei not reporting new indigenous cases for the third day in a row, raising concerns that China’s measures to contain the virus nationwide may be reversed by reintroduced outbreaks . Ten more people died, all in Wuhan, bringing the national disease budget in mainland China to 3,199.
More than 80,000 people have been infected.
Britain on Sunday said its criticized plan to tackle the coronavirus was designed to “protect life” in a “sustainable” way as it prepared to unveil “war” measures to tackle the epidemic. The government has not yet implemented the kind of severe measures taken by continental Europe, but health minister Matt Hancock said on Sunday that he will announce emergency powers on Tuesday, which should include a ban on mass gatherings. “We are absolutely ready to do it,” he told Sky News Sophy Ridge. “We will take the right actions at the right time,” he added, adding “the time is coming.” Critics have accused the government of not acting quickly enough to contain the spread, but the government has said it is taking the advice of experts, including behavioral scientists, on when to implement the measures.
Zimbabwe’s defense minister called the coronavirus pandemic a “punishment” for the United States and Europe for imposing sanctions on members of the ruling regime for human rights abuses.
“Coronavirus is the work of God punishing countries that have imposed sanctions on us,” Zimbabwean defense minister Oppah Muchinguri said on Saturday at a rally in the northern city of Chinhoyi. “They are now indoors. Their economies are screaming just like they did with our economy.”
Northern Italy leaders warned Sunday that beds and artificial respirators were running out to help victims in the European epicenter of the new coronavirus. The requests for help came when the Vatican took the drastic step of canceling the Easter week celebrations that should have started on April 5. The government also prepared to unveil family support measures to help millions of people cope with a pandemic that many now consider the largest Italian crisis since World War II.
Only occasional jogging and a few clubs carrying shopping bags could be seen on the streets of Rome on a sunny afternoon of the first Italian weekend under the actual blockade.
The governor of the Lombardy region of Milan Attilio Fontana said that the situation in the areas around the Italian financial capital Milan “is getting worse”. “We are close to the point where we will no longer be able to revive people because we will be out of the beds of intensive care units,” Fontana told Sky TG24 channel in Italy.
Meanwhile, chaos has gripped major US airports on Sunday, while Americans returning from European countries affected by the coronavirus have overwhelmed authorities who attempted to process the increase. Frustrated passengers complained of long lines, crowded and unhealthy conditions and general disorder in the system for screening people for symptoms of the virus.
“Very close quarters,” Ann Lewis Schmidt told CNN, describing the conditions at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). “So if we hadn’t had the virus before, we would have a great chance of getting it now!” Schmidt said.
U.S. airports have been hit by a flood of Americans, many of them students, as travel restrictions from Europe ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump entered into force on Friday at midnight.
The United States extended the ban on travel from Europe, South Korea and China to Britain and Ireland on Saturday. Only U.S. citizens and legal residents are allowed to enter those countries and should therefore self-quarantine for 14 days. The airport bottlenecks were the latest evidence of continued turbulence in the administration’s response to a pandemic that started in China in December and has since spread worldwide.