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Coronavirus updates Middle East Feb 26 and after

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

This is part of a live-blog that The Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis began on February 20. See our FIRST LIVE BLOG and the SECOND LIVE BLOG for previous dates.

81,184 infected worldwide; 2,766 dead.

Iran says it has 95 cases and 16 dead. Bahrain says it has 26 cases (an increase of 3), UAE has 13, Oman has Iraq has 5, Oman has 4, Israel has 2, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon and Afghanistan both have 1.

Kuwait: Suspects the number of people infected as risen to 18 (seven new cases). See the Kuwaiti ministry page here.

Iran's President claims the discussion about the virus is "weapon in the hands of the enemy" to harm the economy. He says there will be no quarantine imposed on any city or place in the country, and the people should not care about the rumors. There are no plans in place for quarantine. Some clerics urge strange remedies like oil or prayer. Zarif also claimed "Like other viruses - incl terrorism - #COVID19 knows no borders and doesn't distinguish between ethnicities or faiths. To combat it, neither should we. In line with #HOPE, Iran calls for more regional cooperation incl long overdue Joint Center for Disease Control & Prevention." Rumors of resignations from Health ministry. Reports from Khuzestan showing video. Controversy over lack of suspension of Iranian flights to Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. Rumors that members of Iran's parliament are infected (Al-Ain).

Iraq: Several protesters killed despite virus crises. Kurdistan region announces measures against the potential outbreak. "ur cabinet met today to discuss the govt plans in the face of #COVID19 , measures taken by relevant ministries to counter the outbreak, including school closures as a preventative step," KRG spokesman. Basic USAID details in Arabic. Fears about spread in Kirkuk after 4 cases suspected.


Iran arrests 24 for 'spreading rumours'. "Iranian police have arrested 24 people accused of spreading rumours about the coronavirus online, AFP news agency reports." 19 have now died and 139 cases.

Kuwait: There are now 25 cases.

Algeria: Second case detected.

Iraq: Kurdistan region says up to 2,000 quarantined. It is seeking more personal protective equipment (PPE). KRG sends text message information about coronavirus and puts out brochures along WHO guidelines.

Reported case in Pakistan of someone returning from Iran.

February 27

Global total 82,523, deaths: 2,812

Iran: 245 cases, 26 deaths. Kuwait: 43 cases. Bahrain 33 cases. UAE 13 cases. Iraq 6 cases. Oman 4 cases. Israel 2 cases. Lebanon 2 cases. Pakistan 2 cases. Egypt, Afghanistan, Algeria 1 case each.

Iran: IRNA news agency says 22 people have died. "Tehran’s metro system, which serves 3 million people each day, is being sanitized daily. The same goes for the capital’s public transportation vehicles. But contrast that with measures in, say, Hong Kong, where public surfaces like elevator buttons or escalator handrails are cleaned every hour or two." -Atlantic Council. "Ayatollah Saeedi, custodian of the Masoumeh Shrine in Qom, says his shrine must stay open, although it could be spreading #coronavirus." Iran under flight blockade (Al-Ain): Emirates suspends flights, in addition to Iraq, Oman, Kuwait, Turkey, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. "The chairman of Iran's parliamentary national security (National Security Committee) and foreign policy commission has tested positive for coronavirus. Mojtaba Zonnour (Dhul Nur) is also a parliamentary representative for Qom, the city at the centre of Iran's outbreak (The National)." He joins a local mayor from Tehran, the deputy health minister Iraj Haririji and MP, Mahmoud Sadeghi, as one of several officials who are sick. "Instead of declaring a quarantine in cities, we will impose restrictions on the movement of people who are suspected to have been infected with the virus or have been confirmed with it," Health Minister Saeed Nemki said at a press conference. Ayatollah Khamenei gave a message of support to nurses (Tasnim). Some sports matches have been cancelled. Judiciary warns about abuses of the crises, alluding to overcharging or spreading rumors.

Iran may reduce Friday prayer times: Hojjatoleslam Mahmoud Sayyah, Friday Imamate institutions have been informing in the past few days that those who are suffering from heart disease or feel cold or sick are not to attend Friday prayers this week. He also commented on the possible closure of Friday prayers in Tehran province: If there are any issues raised by the Ministry of Health. Iran regional cases: 5 in Tehran province, 6 in Gilan, 7 in Qom, one in Hamadan, eight in Isfahan, seven in Mazandaran, five in Ardebil, three in Alborz, one in Khorasan Razavi, three in Semnan, two in Kermanshah, three in Lorestan, one in Kurdistan, one in Yazd, one in West Azerbaijan and two in East Azerbaijan (ISNA).

Lebanon: "Measures taken by the government do not rise to the level of the seriousness of coronavirus," Al-Arabiya claims, noting that Health Minister Hamad Hassan has said there is no need to panic and Lebanon has not sought to stop air travel to infected areas or countries.

Iraq: Iraq orders "all cafes shut for ten days starting tomorrow due to fears of coronavirus spread. Also extending school and university holidays. Five cases diagnosed so far - all in people traveling." - Jane Arraf. Iraqis returning from Iran must first undergo a 14-day monitoring period and must also be tested in their homes by medical teams (Rudaw). Flights still supposed to be suspended from Baghdad and Najaf to Iran by Iraqi Airlines. Six cases confirmed, Health Ministry spokesman said a young man who recently came back from Iran tested positive for the virus in the capital Baghdad. “The patient has been placed in quarantine and is receiving proper treatment at a hospital in Baghdad,” Dr. Saif Al-Badr told reporters.

Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Hundreds, some say thousands, who returned from Iran are being monitored; some in two hotels in Soran. Region is concerned over supply of personal protective equipment. Brochures and informational spots on TV have sought to explain the issue to the public. "rReligious ministry are now considering the suspension of Friday prayers across the Region (Wladimir Van Wilgenburg)."

Saudi Arabia: Suspends pilgrimages to Mecca over coronavirus. "Saudi Arabia has suspended some travel to the country, including religious pilgrimage." -Reem Abdelattif. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it would temporarily suspend entry to the kingdom for visits to religious sites including Makkah and Madinah as part of a range of precautionary measures, the Spa news agency reported. The country has also suspended entry for those with a tourist visa from countries with confirmed outbreaks of coronavirus (The National)."

Bahrain: 29 cases of infection of coronavirus, several of them Saudi citizens. Government says no truth to closing of King Fahd bridge between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

UAE: "Emirates airline said it would no longer carry to Saudi Arabia passengers with Umrah pilgrimage visas or tourists from nearly two dozen countries until further notice, in compliance with a Saudi government directive to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Holders of Saudi tourist visas traveling from China, Japan, Italy, Iran, India, Pakistan and a number of other countries will be barred from boarding Emirates flights with Saudi Arabia as the final destination, the airline said on its website. The ban takes effect on Thursday (The National)." UAE authorities are building a new medical facility to help treat Covid-19. UAE Football Association cancels matches.

Kuwait: Cases rise to 43. Kuwait university postpones tests, trade fairs are cancelled (Al-Jarida). Evacuation of citizens from Milan. Friday sermons will address how to deal with the virus (Awqaf statement). Ministers hold a special session. Minister of health critiqued.

Qatar: Emir of Qatar provides for evacuation of Qataris and Kuwaitis from Iran.

Jordan: Concerns about trade with Saudi Arabia and citizens on pilgrimage. "Civil Aviation Authority sent, through the Jordanian News Agency (Petra) today, Thursday, an appeal to every Jordanian who is having difficulty returning to the Kingdom." Minister of Health, Saad Jaber, revealed the formation of a crises cell in the National Center for Security and Crisis Management to follow up on Corona virus developments and coordination between government agencies. 70 steps taken.

Turkey: "Turkish Airlines has temporarily suspended flights to Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan region, the company's chairman said Thursday. Turkey’s national flag carrier continues flying to the Azerbaijani capital Baku and Ganja, the country's second-largest city, Ilker Ayci added. The airline disinfected more than 250 aircraft as part of measures to fight coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19," he said (Anadolu).

Oil prices as six month low: Brent crude was trading at $51.91 per barrel at 0655 GMT on Thursday for a 1.74% daily loss after closing Wednesday at $52.83 a barrel with a 3.86% dip.

Israel: Israeli who returned from Italy has virus.

Egypt: Emergency meeting of Arab states due to coronavirus.


Iran: Fars News Iran: Out of 2 new cases, 2 related to Tehran, 3 to Gilan, 2 to Qom, 2 to Isfahan, 2 to Mazandaran, 2 to Ardebil, 2 to Alborz, 3 to Semnan, 2 to Lorestan, 2 to East Azarbaijan, 2 to Kermanshah. One is Hamedan, one is Khorasan Razavi, one is Kurdistan, one is Yazd and one is West Azerbaijan.

More Iranian officials appear infected. [Reminder: “From February 4 to February 22 Mahan Air flew at least fifty-five times to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen and back to Iran from Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport.”]

Head of Tehran Friday Prayer Campaign: Friday prayers will not take place this week in Tehran and several provincial centers.

Iran's vice-president for women's affairs has coronavirus. Women and Family Affairs vice-president is named Masoumeh Ebtekar. On February 25: Masoumeh Ebtekar tweeted "As an immunologist, the important point I would like to make is that #COVID-19 outbreak is a health issue that requires experts evidence based observations. Fake, politicized news or posting can be life threatening... WHO & Health Ministry protocols should be taken seriously." She wrote the same in Farsi on Feb. 20. BBC Persian has a longer list of officials who are sick.

Kuwait: Extends measures in education sector.

Iraq, Kurdistan region: "Work has began on construction of a makeshift hospital in Slemani to receive anyone who might be infected by #coronavirus in the governorate. The project will be completed in 15 days." - Baxtiyar Goran.

Yesterday: Abbas Aragchi: "It's shameful and downright inhuman to cheer for a deadly Virus to spread - and enjoy seeing people suffer for it, but at least he understands that the American economic sanctions were not -- and will not -- as effective as a Covid-19 Virus."

February 28

Iran: Total cases now at 388 and deaths at 34. Kuwait 45 cases, Bahrain 38 cases, Iraq 8, Israel 6, Oman 6, Lebanon 3, Pakistan 2, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan 1.

Reports that Iran death toll could be much higher than reported.

US State Department: "The U.S. Government is prepared to assist the Iranian people in their response efforts against the #coronavirus. We have formally conveyed this offer of support through the Government of #Switzerland. Supporting the people of #Iran is and will remain one of our top priorities."

February 29

Iran 593 cases, 43 dead. No other increases in Middle East, except Qatar which reports one case. Israel now has seven cases.

Azerbaijan closes Iran border.

Mustafa Pourmohammadi diagnosed with the virus. "He has served as the Islamic Republic's minister of justice, minister of interior, and deputy intelligence minister."

Increased reports of how Iran ignored the virus outbreak and is now trying to blame sanctions. Reports indicate 210 are now dead.

Video overnight emerges of "Bandar Abbas where narrator says crowds set fire to a clinic in Shahrak Tohid because it has 10 coronavirus patients from Qom."

Iranians now need health forms to travel. "Following the outbreak of the coronavirus in parts of the country, Lebanese Airlines urged travelers traveling from Iran to Lebanon, including Lebanese nationals and holders of residence permits, to have a completed health form." - Tasnim.

Videos from Iran appear to show spread of virus here and here.

Pakistan confirms two cases among people returning from Iran.

Mohammad Ali Ramazani Dastak, who had been elected as the representative for Astana Ashrafieh last week, was “hospitalised due to influenza and chemical injuries” dating back to the Iran-Iraq war, according to ISNA.

Iran mass produces masks, it says. China offers expertise and aid. The US sanctions and Iran's outbreak - Political piece. Trump offers to help Iran.

March 1

Iran 385, 54 deaths. Bahrain 47, Kuwait 46, Iraq 19, Israel 10, Qatar 3, Algeria 2, Armenia 1,

Iran deploys riot vehicles for "anti-corona" activities.

Four coronavirus cases in Sulaimania.

March 2

New Totals of cases with increased cases: Iran 1,501, 66 deaths, Kuwait 56, Bahrain 49, Iraq 26, Lebanon 13, Qatar 7, Jordan 1, Saudi Arabia 1.

"Seyyed Mohammad Mir-Mohammadi has died from #COVID19 in #Iran. Worth noting, Mir-Mohammadi wasn't just a member of the Expediency Council, but also served as #Khamenei's chief of staff during his presidency." - Jason Brodsky.

Reports of hoarded hospital protective equipment in Iran.

WHO in Iran.

"A list of current & former officials who have died of the #coronavirus in #Iran: - Mohammad MirMohammadi, Expediency Council member - Mohammad Ali Ramezani, newly elected "principlist" MP - Hadi Khosrowshahi, ex ambassador to the Vatican - Mojtaba Fazeli - Reza Pourkhanali" - Maysam Behravesh.

First cases in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

FM Zarif: "Grateful to @WHO & friendly nations for solidarity in fighting #COVID19—in face of US #EconomicTerrorism, which has endangered Iranian patients. Urgent need in Iran for: - N95 Face & 3-Layer Masks - Ventilators - Surgical Gowns - Coronavirus Test Kits - PPF - Face/Body Shields."

US military prepared for Corona.

March 3

Global total 93,000

Country totals in Middle East, only for those with new cases: Iran 2,336, 77 deaths; Iraq 32, UAE 27, Israel 12, Oman 12, Qatar 8, Algeria 8, Pakistan 5

Iran puts army on alert as 24 MPs said to be infected. Iran releases 54,000 prisoners. "Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has called on all Iranians to help boost the country’s battle to stem a growing coronavirus epidemic by paying close heed to the directives and guidelines issued by heath officials." - Press TV. "Another death from #COVID19 in #Iran: Ahmad Toyserkani, an adviser to #Iran's Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi." - Jason Brodksy.

Hamas asks Egypt for support in combating virus. - Al-Arabiya

Israel announces three more cases. Virus facility opened at Rambam hospital.

Saudi Arabia says its lone case is stable. - Al-Arabiya.

Iraq: "Iraq’s health ministry on Tuesday confirmed five more cases of the coronavirus, including one in Baghdad, two in Wasit, one in Najaf, and the first case recorded in Karbala." - Rudaw

March 4

Global 94,240, 3220 deaths;

New totals for countries that had an increase; for other totals see below. Iran 2,922, 92 deaths; Israel 15, Iraq has had its first death.

Other: Kuwait 56, Bahrain 49, Iraq 32, UAE 27, Lebanon 13, Pakistan 5, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, 1,

Iraq: 6th case confirmed in Sulaimania.

Iran: Another Iranian figure reported to have died from the virus, "Ramezan Pourghassem was head of the IRGC Ground Forces counter-intelligence branch." Iranian authorities seized millions of medical supply items being hoarded on the black market - WSJ; Iran's coronavirus response is a mix of pride, paranoia, secrecy and chaos - NYT; Rouhani slams the US. "President Hassan Rouhani has rejected as insincere the United States’ offer of help to Iran in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic, saying Washington should first lift its sanctions on medical supplies if it really seeks to help the Islamic Republic." -PressTV; a new map of Iran's outbreak.

Coronavirus makes Iraq's political crises worse - Bloomberg News.

UAE: UAE is evacuating Yemeni families from China and also creating a "humanitarian village" for people suffering from the virus. - Al-Ain

March 5

New totals for countries that had an increase:

Iran: 3,513, 107 deaths; Kuwait 58, Bahrain 55, Palestinians (PA) 4, Saudi Arabia 2, Egypt 3.

Iran claims that WHO praises its work against coronavirus. Iran continues school and university closures. Iran tries to explain high death toll. Iran encourages people to stop using cash and may restrict travel between cities. Iran blames West for spread of virus. A map of the spread of the virus. Iran blames "Zionists (صهیونیست‌)" for creating deadlier strain of virus. Hossein Salami of IRGC claims US pushing "biological warfare."

Iran accuses Bahrain of mistreating Shi'ite patients of coronavirus.

Palestinian Authority will close institutions.

Morocco announces second case from Italy.

UAE calls on people to avoid travel.

Kuwait: Two new cases it says came from Iran.

Egypt announces new cases. One returned from abroad.

UAE offers South Korea aid.

Saudi Arabia: "The Health department of Mecca in cooperation with the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, has published awareness materials about the new Corona virus on screens across the Holy Mosque in Makkah, including the most important educational tips and advice." Three new cases announced.

March 6

Total: 100,307, 3,408 deaths

Iran: 4,747, 124 deaths; Iraq 40, 3 deaths; Egypt 15, Pakistan 6, Saudi Arabia 15, Israel 17, Palestinian Authority 6.

Iran: Reports of the death of the former adviser to the Iranian Foreign Minister after infection with the coronavirus. Also: Mohammad Abolghasemi, 71 was reported to have been affected. The former advisor’s name is Iranian diplomat Hossein Sheikholeslam, former member of parliament and Iran's former ambassador to Syria, another #coronavirus victim.

Palestinians declare state of emergency after seven cases found in Bethlehem.

March 7

Global total 106,203; 3,600 dead

Iran: 5,823, 145 deaths; Bahrain 85, Kuwait 61, Iraq 54, Egypt 48, UAE 45, Lebanon 28, Israel 25, Algeria 19, Palestine (PA) 19, Oman 16, Qatar 12, Saudi Arabia 7, Pakistan 6, Afghanistan 4, Morocco 20, Jordan 1, Tunisia 1.

Iran: New map of provinces with the virus. Belief that Hadi al-Modarresi, an Iraqi cleric, has the Coronavirus. "Fatemeh Rahbar, the conservative lawmaker-elect who had just been elected as representative of Tehran in recent elections, just died." - Reza Khaasteh. Iran claims WHO praises its efforts against virus. Iran claims that US "illegal sanctions" harm its ability to fight virus. "Our citizens are dying from it," says Zarif, pointing finger at US. Press TV publishes article claiming virus is "biological warfare" against Iran. "Now they're trying to amplify the plague of coronavirus in Iran, which one suspects that they themselves may have actually engineered, because otherwise how could an Israeli company claim that they'll have a vaccine against coronavirus in less than two weeks when all scientists say that if there's a novel outbreak like this, it would take at least a year to have a vaccine. A recent article by former CIA officer Philip Giraldi suggests that probably the US and Israel are working together." The Press TV article notes "So Americans have allowed Israel to colonize them and raid them and rape and pillage them." Iran urges people not to travel. Concerns in Kurdish region about clerics from Qom. Allegations in Iran that medicine from WHO ended up on black market. Videos allegedly show people attacking tourists from Qom. Another video claims to show a sick man near a hospital, abandoned.

Iraq: Erbil closes parks and malls. Shamkhani arrives in Iraq from Iran, despite ban.

Israel: Quarantine for those arriving from abroad, including those attending conferences.

Turkey: Questions as to why Turkey has no cases.

Palestinian PA: Masks distributed in Bethlehem.

March 8

Global 107,691

Countries with new totals: Iran 6,566, 194 deaths; Kuwait 62, Saudi Arabia 11

Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh has offered his condolences to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the death of Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, head of the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada and an adviser to Iran’s foreign minister.

The US reportedly suspends training of foreign troops for fears of the virus.

Saudi Arabia suspends entrance and exit to Qatif region. Kingdom suspends all schools.

March 9

Global 110,665, deaths 3,831

Bahrain 109, Saudi Arabia 15, Qatar 18.

Saudi Arabia bans travel from nine countries. "Suspending travel for Saudi citizens and foreign residents to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Italy and South Korea."

Iran: 565 new cases with a total of 7,161 and 237 deaths. Two more officials may have died: "IRGC official Farzad Tazari, and reformist politician and former lawmaker, Mohammad-Reza Rahchamani."

Israel cases up to 39 as country considers quarantine for everyone coming from abroad. Country announces new measures to help businesses as stock market down almost ten percent, worse since 2008. Israeli tests positive after return from Russia. Seven others came from Europe. Tens of thousands in Israel subjected to self-quarantine. Those returning from conferences after March 5 included. Israel will quarantine everyone arriving from abroad for 14 days.

March 10

Iran 8,042, 291 deaths; Bahrain 110, UAE 74, Israel 58, Qatar 24, Kuwait 69, Pakistan 18, Palestinian PA 26, Tunisia 6, Afghanistan 5.

Iran. Col. Abdullah Jafarzadeh of the IRGC may have died from the virus. Funeral in Iran for Farzad Tazari of the IRGC. Iran says it recognize medical staff as martyrs. Iran Health Ministry spokesman: "Total #CoronaVirus cases in Iran are now 8042. Number of deaths 291. New infections as of yesterday is 881 and 54 deaths in past 24 hrs. Those recovered has reached to 2731." An online commemoration ceremony for former #Iran diplomat Hossein Sheikholeslam in Tehran, who died from #coronavirus. "Iran's former foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki" was spotted at the event. - Jason Brodsky.

Israel/Jordan: The Israeli defence ministry says the Allenby border crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan will be closed to “all traffic in both directions” from Tuesday until further notice. Read Israel's coronavirus announcement.

Concern that Iran spread coronavirus to Syria.

Egypt: People seek tests.

Turkey has no virus cases, but there have been cases transported on airlines via Turkey. Turkish Health Min says country coronavirus-free as Saudi suspends travel to Turkey. Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca: the "chances that the #coronavirus is in Turkey is very high." Despite this he reiterates no cases have been detected. Turkey's pro-government newspaper argues that country is a model of fight against virus.

Iraq: Mosul closes borders.

March 11

Iran : 9,000 cases, a rise of almost 1,000 in a day. 354 dead. "Rumors about Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri's contraction of #Covid19 are true." - Fereshteh Sadeghi. Rouhani refuses quarantine. Iran claims US "shamelessly" blocking aid. Asked about the impact of US sanctions on Iran’s fight against the virus, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, “The oppressive and illegal American sanctions, which [have been imposed on Iran] within the framework of the  ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, have affected public welfare and health in Iran.” Pompeo; "Reports that COVID-19 has spread to Iranian prisons are deeply troubling and demand nothing less than the full and immediate release of all American citizens," Pompeo said. "Their detention amid increasingly deteriorating conditions defies basic human decency." Fars Agency: Iranian Vice President and 2 members of the government are infected with Corona virus: Ali Asghar Mounesan, minister of tourism, and Reza Rahmani, minister of industry, also have #coronavirus.

Lebanon: Rumors that Nasrallah or Hezbollah officials have virus.

Israel: 77 cases. The Directorate of Production and Procurement in the Israel Ministry of Defense has launched an expedited procurement operation worth approximately NIS 50 Million, to equip the IDF with medical equipment.

Bahrain: 79 new cases, most evacuated from Iran. Bahrain will have motorsports without spectators.

Turkey: Announces first case. Postpones trade fairs.

Kuwait suspends commercial flights. Government announces holiday due to virus.

UAE schools will do elearning.

Syria Semalka border crossing closed to European passport holders.

Read the NEXT INSTALLMENT after March 11

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