Turkey is one of the hardest-hit countries in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Region, frequently reporting 4,000 or more new cases every day.
As of Tuesday, a total of over 65,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed across the country, with nearly 1,400 fatalities. Schools and universities have been closed and large gatherings banned, as part of the country’s efforts to curb the further spread of the virus.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has announced another new weekend curfew from midnight on Friday to midnight on Sunday. Officials say that with the arrival of warmer spring weather, it is paramount for people to not go outdoors on the weekends.
Critics are concerned that Erdogan may use the crisis to try to weaken his political opponents, pointing to his comment on Monday, “I hope our country will get rid of not only the coronavirus, but also these media and political viruses”. They say that this is as a signal that more pressure is yet to come on opposition voices.
Syria’s northwestern Idlib province has said that there is only one machine at available that can undertake the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect the virus. Of particular concern is Idlib’s fragile health system and vulnerable people due to the ongoing conflict in Syria that has hit the province hard.
According to a Reuters report, the centre has conducted only 120 tests in the past few days. Although all the tests were negative, doctors and relief agencies fear that crowded refugee camps and medical facilities ravaged by years of war would make any contagion spread rapidly and lethally. Syria has confirmed 29 coronavirus infections and two deaths so far.
Last month, an official at the American Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM), which operates in Syria, has warned, “If corona spreads in the northwest it will be a catastrophe. The number of deaths will be very big and infections will be huge, in the hundreds of thousands.”
In Egypt, 160 new coronavirus cases were confirmed on Tuesday, raising the total number of infections to 2,350 and 178 deaths.
Palestine has reported 19 new cases, including five in East Jerusalem, raising their total to 288 cases, and two deaths. President Mahmoud Abbas had issued instructions to adhere to emergency rules, with legal action to be taken against violators.
Local media reported that Palestinians in Israel are the most vulnerable to infection, because of the Israeli government’s “discriminatory policy” against them in infrastructure and health.
Local media also reported that Israeli forces had raided a testing centre in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan which had been undertaking coronavirus testing. The forces had detained those running it, claiming the Palestinian Authority had helped in setting it up.
Meanwhile the Israeli Ministry of Health warned of a coronavirus outbreak centered in the Arab town of Deir al-Asad in northern Israel with a rising number of cases.. The ministry said the number of infections in the town was “very high”, with 23 confirmed cases in a population of over 12,000 people.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Health’s latest figures, there have been 12,200 infections and 126 deaths from the virus in Israel so far.
In Cyprus, thirty-three new cases of coronavirus were announced by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday, bringing the total to 695, while Greece has 2,170 confirmed cases and 101 deaths.