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Coronavirus in the Middle East - LIVE UPDATES

Updated: Mar 27, 2020

Middle East Coronavirus Daily Update (MECDU)

* This live blog is being updated daily as best we can. Seth J. Frantzman and other members of are staff are contributing, including sources from the region. We have researchers in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran. For details or interviews email:

Feb 21:

Total cases COVID-19 coronavirus worldwide: More than 76,700 and 2,249 deaths

Hashtags in Arabic (#كورونا) and Farsi (کرونا)

Israel’s Ministry of Health on Friday confirmed a passenger returning from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship in Japan has tested positive for COVID-19.

The first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Lebanon on Friday after a woman arriving from Iran tested positive, a source at a Beirut hospital where the woman is being quarantined told Reuters.

Passengers arriving in Turkey with symptoms are denied entry, says Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

With 750 suspected cases of coronavirus in Iran and 18 confirmed, along with five deaths, Turkey is subjecting all arrivals from Iran to medical checks, and barring people with symptoms from entering the country, said the country's top health official on Friday.

In Iran 18 new confirmed cases confirmed on election day. Kianush Jahanpour, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, confirmed deaths of four people from coronavirus in the country’s northern city of Qom, 150 kilometers south of Tehran.

Cases include seven in the city of Qom, four in the capital Tehran and two in Gilan province.

A 45-year-old woman in Lebanon has been linked to the outbreak in Iran.

WHO says Iran cases "very worrisome."

Kuwait: Kuwait's ports authority suspended the movement of people to and from Iran until further notice because of concerns about the coronavirus.

Qatar: Had advised against unnecessary travel on Feb 10, on February 21 Qatar "accused Saudi Arabia of allowing a protracted dispute to hinder Gulf Arab coordination over the coronavirus outbreak."

Iraq: Iraq's south-eastern province of Maysan decided to close its border with Iran yesterday over fears of the coronavirus spreading into the country.

The United Arab Emirates said on Friday it had found two new coronavirus cases. The total number of people identified with the virus in the UAE is now 11. - Reuters and The National.

Egypt: Egypt had confirmed a coronavirus case on February 14, the first in Africa. The country's health ministry says the affected person is a 'foreigner' who is hospitalised.

Saudi Arabia: On February 16 ten Saudi Arabian students had been evacuated from China's coronavirus. A foreign university student, suspected of having caught the new coronavirus, took his own life while under quarantine, Saudi health authorities have said.

Bahrain and Oman: Economic risk due to coronavirus.

Jordan: On Feb. 20 an announcement said an aviation conference to be held in Jordan next month has been delayed due to coronavirus, the organizer wrote on the event’s website. The Middle East and Africa Aviation Summit, organized by industry intelligence firm CAPA – Centre for Aviation, was to be held on March 2 to 3 in Jordan.

- Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq "The scale of preparations should match that of the threat...We call on relevant authorities to be up to the level of responsibility"

- Qatar says five Qatar Airways Cargo flights departed to China to send aid.

- UAE reveals the two cases reported earlier are "34-year-old Filipino national and a 39-year-old Bangladeshi national"

- Lebanon released details of woman who travelled to Qom in Iran. "We confirmed the first case today," Lebanese Health Minister Hassan Hamad said at a news conference in Beirut.

-Saudi Arabia is supplying emergency medical equipment to combat the virus (كورونا) in China.

- Iraq's Commission for Human Rights in Iraq called for the country to enter the health alert phase "C" due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus . The Iraqi authorities had denied entry to the Iranians through their border ports for 3 days due to the Corona virus. The Iraqi Ministry of Interior also decided yesterday, Thursday, to suspend granting the tourist visa to the Iranians directly, in a precautionary measure against the virus. -Al-Arabiya

- Iranian officials fear the virus is in numerous cities. An official at the Iranian Ministry of Health announced on Friday that the Corona virus has spread in many cities. "According to the current reports, the spread of Corona began in Qom, and with the transmission of people, he reached several cities in the country, including Tehran, Babylon, Arak, Rasht, (طهران وبابل وآراك ورشت وغيرها) etc., and it is likely to be present in all Iranian cities."

- BNO claims "Saudi Arabia bans citizens from traveling to Iran due to coronavirus outbreak."

February 22

Turkey: "Turkish airliner chartered by Holland America cruise line to evacuate passengers from its Westerdam cruise was abruptly turned around mid-flight Thursday, according to flight data and multiple sources. The flight was carrying 268 citizens from multiple countries, including the United States, when it was forced to land in Karachi, Pakistan, instead of Istanbul, Turkey -- its original destination." - ABC News

Iran: Local TV said that Mortada Rahman Zada, mayor of District 13 in the capital, Tehran, was taken to the hospital with symptoms of the "Corona" virus, on Friday.

WHO continues concern after recent Lebanon cases. "The regional office in Cairo is in contact with the two countries to assess the situation first and determine the type of technical assistance that the two countries need and we are ready to provide that technical assistance...Sylvie Braend, director of global preparedness for communicable risks in the organization, said that the situation is constantly evolving and said: "Cases are not only increasing, but we are also seeing different patterns of movement in different places."

-Reports that Muqtada al-Sadr has left Qom due to the outbreak.

- Name of woman in Lebanon (#لبنان) who was reported sick is released to media: Taghrid Sakr. She had returned from Iran (#إيران). Al-Hadath reports that the Minister of Health is from Hezbollah (#حزب_الله).

- Tasnim: "Following the emergence of this global need, some businesses have misused people's knowledge and sold ineffective products called Corona virus therapeutic or prophylactic products."

-Iran suspends flights for pilgrimages to Iraq due to coronavirus. - Al Ain. Report: The announcement by Kiyanosh Jahanpour, a spokesman for the Iranian Ministry of Health, on state television, on Saturday that 10 new cases of Corona virus have been discovered in the country and one of the infected has died. With the announcement of new cases in Iran, the total number of people living with the virus in the country increases officially to 28, and the number of deaths due to it has risen to five."

- Pakistan: Considering putting restrictions on #Iran travel, according to government sources

- Kurdistan Region of Iraq: "Hundreds of people have been quarantined at two hotels in Soran town in the Kurdistan Region’s Erbil province after returning from Iran. The quarantine is in accordance with new measures by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to prevent the spread of coronavirus from Iran." - Rudaw

- Israel: Nine South Koreans who visited Israel now test positive for coronavirus.Israel says that it will apply a ban on South Korea. "Tourists from South Korea who are set to arrive in Israel starting 7 pm on Saturday will not be allowed to enter Israeli territory, the Health Ministry said Saturday...At this point the ban appears to be temporary and is not an extension of an entry-ban policy that currently applies on China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore."

- Thailand concerned about new travel restrictions after Israel banned the citizens of Thailand.

- Mayor of District 13 in Tehran taken to hospital. "Rahmanzadeh, the mayor of District 13 in the capital, Tehran, was taken to hospital after symptoms of "Corona" appeared on him on Friday, according to the same me."

-Iran; Fears of price gouging for medical masks. "Mehdi Pour emphasized that it is forbidden to increase the price of any medical masks and goods: At present, the maximum selling rate to the final consumer of any number of three-layer masks is in accordance with the relevant pricing commission regulation of 4,100 Rials and all pharmacies And supply centers are bound by the price ceiling set on." - Fars News. People are photographed across Iran in protective masks.

- Iraq urges citizens not to travel to Iran. Iraq "reported its first coronavirus case in the southern Dhi Qar province, according to a local medical source. The source said an Iraqi student tested positive for the virus after returning from the Iranian city of Qom." - Anadolu. That case is under investigation.

-UAE embassy in South Korea issues advisory urging people to avoid crowds. - The National

- The Palestinian Ministry of Health announced that a tourist delegation from South Korea visited the cities of (Jerusalem, Nablus, Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron) from February 8 to 15 this month, and "it was found that some of its members were infected with the Corona virus at and they returned to their country. And the ministry asked, on Saturday evening, whoever contacted this delegation, or who was near it, for a distance of less than two meters and for a period of at least 15 minutes, to place himself in the house quarantine for a period of 14 days i.e. on the date of 29/2/2020 where he does not mix with others." - Al-Ghad

- Azerbaijan investigates "two Azerbaijani students (born in 1997) studying in Chinese Guangzhou city, which were conducted at Baku’s Clinical Medical Center upon their arrival in Baku on suspicion of being infected with coronavirus, were negative."

- A study by the Lancet medical journal suggested that Egypt, Algeria and South Africa are at high risk of suffering from the deadly coronavirus.

-Oil prices slide 1% due to coronavirus. "The latest signs of infections outside the Hubei province epicentre in China spurred a selloff across financial markets, as G20 policymakers travelled to Saudi Arabia for talks on the global economy." - CNBC

- Morocco "Morocco is availing its experience and 'human resources' to help the continent deal with risks of importing the the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Morocco’s Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb, in in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia this weekend, as he takes part in an extraordinary session of AU ministers on the COVID-19 emergency, said that the North African country is poised to 'share its expertise and experience' with fellow, less equipped African countries as the continent takes measures to prevent the spread of the deadly virus." - Morocco World News. 160 Moroccan citizens were repatriated from China's Wuhan in early February and kept in a 20-day quarantine at Sidi Said hospital in Meknes and the Mohammed V military hospital in Rabat. No case of the novel coronavirus was registered among them said the Ministry of Health. -Yibaldi press.

- South Koreans in Israel being asked to stay in their hotels. There may be 1,000 of them. Israeli news reports are spreading and rumormongering as well on social media.

- Turkey, reports from travelers mention rigorous checks on people and questions about where they have been prior to flying through Istanbul.

- Clashes at hospital reported in Talesh (تالش) in Iran due to the virus. In Tehran a man says "the situation inside the hospital very scary and terrifying, even the hospital medical staff, some of whom were infected with Corona virus and what I saw there was terrifying." Isfahan, medical Student "protest in Isfahan University of Medical Sciences due to lack of clothes and protective facilities to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in hospitals." Iranians complain about Mahan Air.

-Lebanon: Medical staff at Rafik Hariri hospital wear protective gear.

- 8:40pm Iran announced sixth death from the virus.

-Lebanon Health Minister claims everything under control. Anger at his behavior.

- Kurdistan region of Iraq, people urge border closure with Iran.

- Iran announces closure of many schools on February 23 and 24. Full details released later and coronavirus not mentioned originally.

- Korean Air 957 landed in Israel at 19:44 and appears that Israeli citizens will be allowed off and escorted while it is kept on runway, refueled and then sent back.

-Universities closed in Iran: Advisor to the Minister of Health says all universities in Tehran, Alborz, Qazvin, Markazi, Qom, Hamedan, Isfahan, Gilan, Mazandaran, Markazi are closed by the weekend. See report at Fars here. ISNA reports on how the virus can be confronted. Sciences Minister breaks silence and discusses university health centers.

- 10pm Iran: A list of schools that are closed is published, extending to 14 provinces as shown here. - Fars. Other reports also indicate the closures. Univeristy closures: Tehran, Alborz, Qazvin, Markazi, Qom, Hamedan, Isfahan, Guilan, Mazandaran, and Markazi.

- Iran: Clashes reported in Rasht and other areas. Official said that news about the virus must come only from the Ministry of Health and that people should avoid rumors. A head of a unit at Qom University said he had received no statistics. Women at a university in Tehran protested the lack of information. In Talesh people continued to protest mysterious closures and quarantines. Tear gas was used outside at least one hospital. In Rasht fires were lit and the authorities cracked down on protests. “They resort to oppression instead of a solution to the coronavirus crises,” wrote locals. In Alborz, "ISNA, continued: 'Even the heads of the medical universities of the country are not allowed to provide statistics in order to prevent the polyphony and the dissemination of contradictory information.'"

- Concern in Israel about students who were near South Korean tour group.

February 23

Deaths have reached 2,444 in China.

- Media begins to report clashes in Iran's Talesh.

- South Korea slams Israel for banning its citizens entry and sending plane back.

- "180 Israeli school children have been quarantined for 14 days after it emerged they had visited Masada National Park at the same time as the group of South Korean pilgrims. At least 30 of the children were students from David Tuviyahu School in Be'er Sheva. On Sunday, only 50 children out of 520 arrived in school, said the principal." - Ynet

- Kurdistan region closes borders with Iran.

- Iranians buying medical masks

- "Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accuses foreign media of trying to use a deadly outbreak of coronavirus in Iran to "discourage" people from voting in a general election." - AFP

- Deaths in Iran may have reached 15, as country closes universities.

-Pakistan raises alert on Iranian border.

- Iran's Fars News, ISNA, IRNA and Tasnim don't include much info, if any, about coronavirus, only IRNA notes : "the Food and Drug Administration on Sunday, Mohammad Reza Shanazaz stated in this directive: According to the current situation, the Director General of Medical Devices and in accordance with the Decree of the Medical Devices and Medical Devices stated that there is a need to plan for the supply and distribution of different types of masks. A circular was issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission to manufacturers, distributors, trade unions, drug companies, suppliers and pharmacies nationwide of medical masks. Until then they will be distributed free of charge."

-Kuwait evacuates citizens from Iran. "Minister of Health Sheikh Dr. Basil Al-Sabah that all the passengers of the Kuwaiti plane coming from the Iranian city of Mashhad yesterday are in good health and high spirits, and they do not show any symptoms of the 'emerging corona' disease. Al-Sabah said, in a statement to him, after the arrival of the first plane carrying citizens who were in Iran, to Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Airport, that "the arrangements were in full swing, as the first flight of 130 citizens arrived", indicating that 5 other flights will be received during the coming hours." Up to 750 Kuwaitis will arrive. - Al-Jarida

- Several rumored cases in eastern Turkey in city of Wan - Baxtiyar Goran

- Iran disinfects Isfahan train stations - Fars News

- Iran Health Ministry official: 8 deaths and 43 coronavirus cases in Iran. Details "7 of them were in Qom, 4 in Tehran, 2 in Gilan, 1 in Markazi, and 1 in Tonekabon city."

- Afghanistan reports several cases of suspected coronavirus from those returning from Iran.

-Iran seeks to crack down on sheesha-hookah bars to stop virus spread.

-Turkey shuts Iran border.

- Israel's ministry of health has announced the country's second case of coronavirus.

-New video from Tabriz of virus concerns in Iran

- Medical mask prices increase in Mosul. Concerns about IDP camps (Mosul Eye).

-Rouhani compares US sanctions to coronavirus while meeting Austrian delegation.

February 24

79,566 cases, 2,620 deaths worldwide

Total Middle East cases: Iran (43, 8 dead), Israel (2), Iraq (1?), UAE (13), Afghanistan (1)

Iran orders national HQ to fight coronavirus. "Iran's president stipulated that the new organ must work under command of the health minister and should also include the ministers of interior; road and urban development; education; science, research and technology; cultural heritage, tourism and handicrafts; culture and Islamic guidance; as well as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Iran’s armed forces, the office of the attorney general, head of Plan and Budget Organization, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, head of Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, the administration’s spokesman, and Iran's police chief."

Kuwait continues evacuation of citizens from Iran.

Seven countries have now banned visitors from Iran. Pakistan, Turkey and Armenia close Iran's borders. CNN notes "Turkey has also 'temporarily halted' flights arriving from Iran, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said, according to state-news agency Anadolu.

Also "Afghanistan closed its border with Iran after it announced it was testing three people suspected of having coronavirus. The three people had recently returned from Iran.

'To avoid spreading of coronavirus the government of Afghanistan has stopped any contact with Iran via land or air. The borders are closed,' the Afghani National Security website said."

- Iraq extended its entry ban on Iranian travelers Monday for 15 more days amid a growing coronavirus outbreak in Iran. Concern in Mosul.

Concerns after G20 confab in Saudi at virus impact. Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan spoke during a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 nations on February 23, 2020.

- "A Bahraini national showed symptoms after arriving on a flight from Iran and was transferred to the Ebrahim Khalil Kanoo Medical Centre." The National

- "Kuwait has reported three people who had travelled to Iran have tested positive coronavirus. According to the country's state news agency,"

-Iraq said it had closed its Safwan border crossing with Kuwait. It also said it had no recorded cases of the virus.

- Iraqi Shi'ite clerics advocate reciting Quranic verses due to virus.

-Iran Health Minister says the number of confirmed cases has increased to 47, 12 of whom have died. The previous number of cases was 43, 8 of whom had died. So all the four new cases are dead.

-ISNA puts out an infographic on the virus. Fars News tries to explain the virus. Tasnim says students will confront the virus.

- Official figures from Iran's Health Ministry: 18 new cases confirmed in past 24 hours, including 8 from Qom, 3 in Tehran, 2 in Rasht, 1 in Hamadan, 2 in Arak, and 2 in Isfahan. This increases the official number to 61, 12 of whom have died. - Anger in Iraq as religious sites in Qom remain open, photos show people in masks praying and disinfectant being sprayed.

- Alborz in Iran confirms coronavirus.

- Report that 50 may be infected in Iran, although Iran denies the numbers, The Guardian reports them. Comparison with China: On January 23 "At least 25 people are dead in China and more than 800 infected"; by January 27, 2,835 were infect and 106 dead by January 28 and 4,515 infected. If Iran is on this trajectory in a few days it will get much worse.

- Anger in Lebanon that flights to Iran continue.

- Iraq: Najaf Health Directorate claims the Iranian citizen, infected with #coronavirus entered #Iraq before border crossing closed. Meanwhile, reports say that the border crossings never been completely closed. Iraqi Airways still have flights to #Iran. - Baxtiyar Goran

- Oman reports first case. Suspends flights to Iran.

- KRG KRG Minister of Health Dr. Saman Barzangi says 1249 people who recently returned from Iran to #Kurdistan Region are going through medical checkups. 13 locations has been prepared to quarantine the returnees for 14 days. No cases/suspects of coronavirus in Kurdistan. Fear in Kirkuk after rumors of virus.

- Iran: IRGC says ready to assist. Schools reman clothed. General Staff of armed forces announces measures to prevent spread of virus. First Vice-President speaks with West Azerbajan and Qom to coordinate efforts. Tehran municipality announces measures against virus. Iran’s Minister of Health and Medical Education Saeed Namaki denied rumors he resigned. "Foreign Policy Advisor to #Iran’s supreme leader Ali Akbar Velayati returning to his training today as a physician specializing in infectious diseases (Jason Brodsky)." WHO to arrive in Iran on Tuesday. Head of Qom Medical University Mohammad Reza Qadir reportedly diagnosed with Coronavirus and quarantined.

-Iraq : Protesters seek to stop flights in Najaf. Iraqi flights to Iran continue. Najaf student who returned with virus says he came back before border restrictions. Images from Najaf. Dr. Saad Salem collects items to confront virus in Mosul (Ali Baroodi).

A new MAP of the virus spread in Middle East, and another MAP here.

-Syria "The Al-Jazeera Health Authority takes precautionary measures against Coronavirus outbreak, special cadres have been put in place for arrivals and travelers across the border crossings in NES and launched an awareness campaign."

- Tajikistan suspends flights to Iran.

Read our next installment at this link February 25.

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