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February 22, 2020

Coronavirus cases spread across Middle East

Top Story

February 22, 2020

TEHRAN/BEIRUT/BEIJING: Fresh cases of coronavirus were Friday reported across the Middle East, with the Iranian authorities confirming the death of two more persons, bringing the total number of deaths to four.

"The total number of deaths in Iran so far is four," Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to health minister, announced on Friday as Iranians voted across the country in its 11th round of parliamentary elections.

The health official did not share further information about where the fatalities on Thursday took place, reports the international media.

Two elderly people who died in the holy city of Qom on Wednesday were the first deaths in the Middle East and the seventh and eighth deaths caused by the virus outside mainland China.

Vahabzadeh said there were 13 confirmed cases of the infection: Four in Tehran, seven in Qom, south of the capital, and two in Rasht, which lies in the northern part of the country.

The health official added there were several suspected cases in other cities but they were undergoing testing.

Lebanon confirmed its first coronavirus case on Friday after a woman arriving from Iran tested positive.

The plane that arrived from the Iranian city of Qom was carrying 150 passengers. Lebanon received a warning from its embassy in Tehran about a plane carrying potential coronavirus cases, coming from the region in which Iranian authorities have monitored several infections.

A medical team hurried to the plane, Mahan Air flight W5115, as soon as it landed in Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut on Thursday night.

Passengers were all tested, and as 45-year-old Souad Sakr showed symptoms, she was taken directly to isolation at a Beirut hospital and provided with all the medical requirements.

The coronavirus, known as COVID-19, was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December. Since then, it has infected more than 75,000 people and killed more than 2,000 - the vast majority of victims in China.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Friday said two more people had tested positive.

The UAE Health authorities confirmed two more persons were infected with Covid-19, bringing the country's total number of new coronavirus cases to 11.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention made the announcement saying the patients included someone from the Philippines, aged 34, and another from Bangladesh, aged 39.

Although, the authorities said the two were in stable condition.

The UAE health Ministry said in a statement that the two new cases had close contact with the recently confirmed cases of the Chinese citizen.

Most of those diagnosed in the UAE with the virus had been Chinese citizens.

Three of those previously diagnosed, all Chinese nationals, have fully recovered, the health ministry said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

Meanwhile, mainland China reported 118 new deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, pushing the number of deaths nationwide to at least 2,236.

Beijing also reported 1,109 new confirmed cases of the disease during the same period, sharply up from 349 cases the previous day, reversing three days of decline.

At least 631 of the new cases were from the epicentre of the epidemic in Hubei. Most of the latest deaths were also from the province.

The latest number of infections nationwide has now reached 75,685.

Here are the latest updates:

Five Qatar Airways Cargo freighters departed to China on Friday carrying approximately 300 tonnes of medical supplies donated by the airline to support Coronavirus relief efforts.

The five flights departed one after the other bound for Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou as part of Qatar Airways' voluntary offer of free air cargo transportation for medical relief aid organised by Chinese embassies and consulates worldwide to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The United Arab Emirates Friday said it had registered two new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of people diagnosed with the virus in the Gulf Arab state to 11.

The new cases in the UAE were detected in a 34-year-old Filipino national and a 39-year-old Bangladeshi national who had contact with a Chinese national who had been diagnosed with the virus, the health ministry said in a statement.

It said the two were in stable condition.

Ukraine's health minister joined evacuees from China in quarantine in a sanatorium on Friday in a show of solidarity after fears over the possible spread of the coronavirus led to clashes between protesters and police.

Posting a selfie on her Facebook page, Zoriana Skaletska said she would spend two weeks in a room there and would carry out her government duties by phone and Skype.

Everyone inside the sanatorium was feeling well and showed no signs of infection, she said.

The World Health Organization warned on Friday that the window of opportunity to contain wider international spread of the epidemic of the new coronavirus disease was closing, and countries must act fast if they are to control it.

Asked whether the outbreak is at a "tipping point" after new cases and deaths from COVID-19 were reported in Iran and Lebanon, the WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he still believed the virus could be contained, but added, "The window of opportunity is narrowing, so we need to act quickly before it closes completely.

Hubei province Friday revised the number of new cases it reported on February 19 to 775, from 349 previously.

Earlier in the day, provincial authorities said they would add back some cases to their tally of the disease, after they adjusted their methodology to count only cases that were detected with genetic tests, rather than with CT scans.

Officials later concluded on Friday that it was a mistake to have removed cases that were already counted.

Hubei Party secretary Ying Yong Friday ordered the cases to be added back to the tally and said that whoever removed them would be held responsible, Tu Yuanchao, a senior official at Hubei's health commission said.

Six people were tested positive in Italy for coronavirus, the northern Lombardy region said, in the first known cases of local transmission of the potentially deadly illness in the country.

Officials told residents from three small towns some 60 km (40 miles) southeast of Italy's financial capital Milan, to stay at home as doctors tested hundreds of people who might have come into contact with the six coronavirus sufferers.

None of the six were believed to have visited China.

A spike in the number of coronavirus cases reported in China on Friday includes hundreds of prisoners who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus.

As a result, prison and security officials, as well as others in Hubei, have been fired over failing to disclose information and for allowing the virus to spread.

Justice Ministry official He Ping said more than 500 cases of the novel coronavirus had been confirmed within the country’s prisons.

A majority of 271 cases involving prisoners in Hubei occurred at the Wuhan Women’s Prison.

Another 200 prisoners tested positive for the virus in Shandong Province, and dozens more were confirmed in Shilifen prisoners in Zhejiang Province.

He said the virus had been imported into prisons and that there were no deaths among infected prisoners.

The latest tallies suggest over 76,000 people have been infected with COVID-19, with at least 2,250 deaths, including a 29-year-old doctor who had been working to treat coronavirus patients. Peng Yinjua, a respiratory doctor, died on Thursday.

“The overall situation is trending toward the better, and the outbreak is under control with zero increase in some provinces, Zeng Yixin, vice director of National Health Commission, said.

“In Hubei and Wuhan, however, newly reported deaths remain at a high level. We need to take that seriously.”

“During the epidemic, we found some individuals who were airing their grievances and disappointment by spitting at members of the public, in lifts, on supermarket merchandise and even at medical staff,” Li Jingsheng, director of the Public Security Administration of the Ministry of Public Security, said, according to SCMP.com.

“Others have refused to … wear any protective gear in public places, and have abused and beaten [workers carrying out control measures].”