UN panel urges halt to Syria fighting as virus strikes Mar 29, 2020 0 1226 12345 AFPGenevaWarring parties in Syria must stop fighting “to avoid further catastrophe”, UN investigators said on Saturday, as the first cases of the COVID-19 epidemic are recorded in a country already torn apart by nine years of war.The UN fears large numbers of preventable deaths may follow although Damascus has reported only five cases of the novel coronavirus so far.“Syrian civilians now face a deadly threat in the form of the COVID-19 outbreak, one that will strike without distinction and that will be devastating for the most vulnerable in the absence of urgent preventative action,” said Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria. The parties must heed calls for a ceasefire or face a “looming tragedy”, Pinheiro said, adding: “Anything short of that will likely condemn large numbers of civilians to preventable deaths.”The conflict has left more than 380,00 dead and the World Health Organization says Syria’s health system has been acutely weakened. Just 64 percent of hospitals and 52 percent of primary healthcare centres that existed before 2011 are functioning, and 70 percent of the country’s health workers have left.The commission noted that “much of this situation is a result of pro-Government forces systematically targeting medical facilities”.“Nurses, doctors and medical volunteers have been attacked, detained and disappeared by parties to the conflict,” the statement said.“All attacks on medical providers, facilities, hospitals, and first responders must cease immediately.”The 6.5 million displaced Syrians still living in the country are particularly threatened by the spread of the virus, including one million mainly women and children in the camps of Idlib province along the Turkish border. Pages 12 RELATED ARTICLES Mali opposition urges huge election turnout despite coronavirus Mar 29, 2020 0 302 China’s virus epicentre Wuhan eases travel curbs after lockdown Mar 29, 2020 0 374 Taliban says no to Afghan negotiators Mar 29, 2020 0 255 Virus infections climb in Saudi Arabia despite stringent measures Saudi Arabia on Saturday confirmed 99 new cases of the coronavirus, raising its total to 1,203, the highest number in an Arab country. Of these, 41 were recorded in Riyadh, a Health Ministry spokesman said. A lockdown is .. Gaza calls off Land Day border protest due to coronavirus fears DPA Gaza/Tel Aviv Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have cancelled the annual Land Day protest at the Israeli border over fears the gathering could lead to a spike in coronavirus infections. Instead, would-be .. Iran coronavirus death toll tops 2,500: ministry Tehran Iran announced on Saturday that 139 more people had died from the novel coronavirus, raising the official death toll to 2,517 in one of the world’s worst-affected countries. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush .. Jordan registers its first death from coronavirus Amman Jordan on Saturday registered its first death due to the Covid-19. The director of Prince Hamzah Hospital, Abdulrazaq Khashman, announced the death of an 83-year-old woman. “The octogenarian woman, has .. Egypt to jail & fine COVID-19 ‘false news’ mongers DPA Cairo People in Egypt who spread “false news and rumours” on social media about the novel coronavirus could face imprisonment and a hefty fine, the prosecutor general’s office said on Saturday. A statement said those .. Guinea opposition rejects constitutional referendum result The Guinean opposition on Saturday rejected the result of a constitutional referendum , which they fear will be used by President Alpha Conde to extend his grip on power. The proposal to change the constitution was hugely ..