A woman wearing a mask walks in Tajrish bazaar in Tehran, Iran, on March 2, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
CAIRO, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Iran reported 149 new deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, as the pandemic kept expanding in the Middle East, where Israel became the second worst-hit country with its total number of infections rising to 677.
Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education said the death toll from the novel coronavirus rose to 1,284, while the total number of the infected people climbed to 18,407, up by 1,091 from Wednesday. A total of 5,979 people have recovered, up by 269.
Iran is hardest-hit country in the Middle East, as 50 Iranians are infected with the novel coronavirus in every hour, while one Iranian dies from the disease in every 10 minutes, Kianush Jahanpur, head of Public Relations and Information Center of Iran's Health Ministry, said in a tweet.
Elsewhere in the region, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection continued to rise in most countries, despite more measures taken to contain the outbreak.
Israel added 244 news COVID-19 cases on Thursday, in the biggest single-day rise. The Israeli government decided to ban citizens from leaving home for seven days, and any violation will involve a fine of up to 14,400 new shekels (about 3,945 U.S. dollars) and imprisonment of up to six months.
In Cairo, Egyptian Health Ministry announced 46 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 256. A 68-year-old Egyptian man died in hospital, bringing the death toll of COVID-19 in Egypt to seven, including four Egyptians, two Germans and an Italian.
The Egyptian cabinet decided to shut down malls, restaurants, coffee shops and similar entertainment places from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily from March 19 to March 31. Food stores, pharmacies, groceries and bakeries will not be affected.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) reported 27 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total coronavirus cases in the country to 140.
Farida Al Hosani, manager of communicable diseases affairs at Abu Dhabi's Department of Health, also announced the recovery of three UAE citizens, a Syrian and a Sri Lankan, bringing the total number of recoveries to 31.
Iraqi Health Ministry confirmed one more death from COVID-19 and 15 new cases of infection, bringing the total number of the infected patients to 192.
Qatar, the hardest-hit Arab country by the virus, on Thursday reported eight new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 460.
Qatar has shut down all shops except food stores, pharmacies and bank branches in shopping malls to fight the coronavirus.
Kuwait reported six new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total number of confirmed cases to 148. The Health Ministry said that 18 cases had recovered while 130 were still receiving treatment, including three in critical condition.
In Beirut, Lebanese Health Ministry announced that the number of COVID-19 cases in Lebanon soared to 149, after six new cases were detected.
The Lebanese Information Ministry will launch a website dedicated to publishing news and studies about COVID-19 to raise awareness among Lebanese people.
Algeria on Thursday announced seven new cases of coronavirus infection, and one new death from the viral respiratory disease. So far eight of the 82 COVID-19 cases in the country had died.
Morocco confirmed five new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 63.
In Palestine, the total number of COVID-19 cases climbed to 47 in the West Bank, after three new cases were discovered. But the Hamas-ruled besieged coastal enclave of Gaza Strip remained free of the coronavirus.
In Turkey's largest city of Istanbul, local media reported a total of 20 people have died and 34 others were hospitalized because of drinking isopropyl alcohol to prevent COVID-19 infection during the last week.