Middle East’s pandemic death toll tops 50,000

Middle East

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 50,000 in the Middle East on Thursday, according to a count from The Associated Press based on official numbers provided by health authorities.

Those numbers still may be an undercount, though, as testing in war-torn nations like Libya and Yemen remains extremely limited.

The top U.N. official for Libya on Wednesday warned that the coronavirus pandemic in the war-ravaged country appears to be “spiraling out of control.” Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who control the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north, have refused to release virus statistics.

The hardest-hit nation remains Iran, which saw the region’s first major outbreak. Over 21,900 people have died there from the virus, with over 380,000 confirmed cases and 328,000 recoveries.

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Also Thursday, Israel announced plans to impose strict lockdowns on cities with major outbreaks after it reported a record 3,000 new cases in a single day. The country had largely contained its outbreak last spring after imposing strict lockdown measures. But infections have skyrocketed since the economy was abruptly reopened in May.

The government, which has faced widespread criticism for its handling of the pandemic, said new lockdowns would be imposed in so-called red cities. Israeli media say several cities and towns, including many Arab and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, are on the list.

“We’ve decided to impose closures on red cities,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement Thursday. “I ask for the cooperation of all citizens to put the brakes on the spread of the sickness.”

The exact details of the plan were not yet known, but the lockdowns are expected to resemble those imposed countrywide in the spring, when schools and most businesses were closed, and people were only allowed to leave home to buy food and medicine.

As of Thursday, Israel has reported more than 124,000 cases and 985 deaths.

The United Arab Emirates, which has embarked on a mass testing campaign, saw its highest daily number of new cases in over three months. That came as schools have reopened in the country and Dubai has offered itself as a tourist destination. The federation has reported more than 72,000 cases, including 387 deaths.

Beyond the Middle East, Pakistan’s numbers have continued to decline — befuddling expectations in mid-June, when even the authorities were anticipating a large increase in cases. On Thursday, Pakistan reported more than 297,000 infections and 6,328 deaths.

And in Afghanistan, the government has opened up recreational facilities and most businesses. But experts fear the real numbers are likely far higher than officially reported number of over 38,000 infections and 1,409 deaths.

FLIGHTS INTO CHINA

Separately, in China, Beijing’s main international airport on Thursday began receiving international flights again from a limited number of countries considered at low risk of coronavirus infection.

Passengers flying in from Cambodia, Greece, Denmark, Thailand, Pakistan, Austria, Canada and Sweden must have first shown a negative coronavirus test before boarding, city government spokesperson Xu Hejian told reporters.

Passenger arrivals will be limited to roughly 500 per day during a trial period and all will need to undergo additional testing for the virus on arrival, followed by two weeks of quarantine.

China has gone weeks without new cases of local infection, and the 11 new cases recorded Thursday were all imported.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

• A prison inmate in Thailand has tested positive for the coronavirus in the country’s first confirmed locally transmitted case in 100 days, health officials said Thursday. They identified the inmate as a 37-year-old man arrested in a drug-abuse case who was taken to prison in Bangkok on Aug. 26 and tested positive Wednesday at the prison’s health center.

• India has registered a record single-day spike of 83,883 new cases, driving the country overall tally to 3.85 million. The Health Ministry on Thursday also reported 1,043 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking total fatalities up to 67,376.

• South Korea reported its first drop below 200 new coronavirus cases in more than two weeks.

• Hong Kong says just six people have tested positive for the coronavirus out of 128,000 residents who have taken part in the city’s mass testing program that began Tuesday. Four of the six people were previous coronavirus patients who were discharged last month and still carried traces of the virus when they were tested.

• Australia’s hot spot Victoria state on Thursday recorded its second consecutive day of increased covid-19 cases. The state health department said there had been 113 new infections and 15 deaths in the latest 24-hour period.

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FILE – In this Aug. 6, 2020 file photo, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and Khalid Al-Mishri, Head of the Libyan High Council of State, pose for a photo before their talks, in Tripoli, Libya. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus has gone over 50,000 in the Middle East as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region. Those numbers still may be an undercount, though, as testing in war-torn nations like Libya and Yemen remains extremely limited. (Fatih Aktas/Turkish Foreign Ministry via AP, Pool, File)
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FILE – In this Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020 file photo, people wearing protective face masks to help prevent spread of the coronavirus mourn during an annual ceremony commemorating Ashoura in Tehran, Iran. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus has gone over 50,000 in the Middle East as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)
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FILE – In this July 16, 2020 file photo, a patient is comforted by a relative, at Family Medical Center, in Majdalaiya village, north Lebanon. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus has gone over 50,000 in the Middle East as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)
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FILE – In this March 30, 2020 file photo, the Ministry of Antiquities lights up the pyramids of Giza in an expression of support for health workers battling the coronavirus outbreak, in Giza, Egypt. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus has gone over 50,000 in the Middle East as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
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FILE- In this June 3, 2020 file photo, workers make protective face masks to be used to help curb the spread of the coronavirus at a factory in Kabul, Afghanistan. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus has gone over 50,000 in the Middle East as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
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FILE – In this Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020 file photo, a Palestinian girl wear a face mask during a lockdown imposed following the discovery of locally transmitted coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus has gone over 50,000 in the Middle East as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)
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FILE- In this April 19, 2020 file photo, people attend evening prayers while maintaining a level of social distancing to help avoid the spread of the coronavirus, at a mosque in Karachi, Pakistan. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus has gone over 50,000 in the Middle East as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan, File)
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FILE- In this March 6, 2020 file photo, Saudi policemen guard the the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The confirmed death toll from the coronavirus has gone over 50,000 in the Middle East as the pandemic continues. That’s according to a count Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, from The Associated Press, based on official numbers offered by health authorities across the region. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

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