Mideast curfews, Libya reports first virus

Libya has recorded its first confirmed case of the coronavirus, stoking concern that an outbreak could overwhelm the war-torn country's already weakened health care system.

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the Middle East, countries have sought to slow the increase of cases by limiting the movements of hundreds of millions of people.

The Arab world's most populous country, Egypt, as well as Syria, a country ravaged by nine years of war, became the latest countries to impose nightly curfews starting this week.

The International Monetary Fund meanwhile said shortages in crucial medical supplies could drive up prices and inflict pain on the Mideast's poorest nations.

There are over 31,000 cases of the virus across the Mideast, the vast majority in the hard-hit nation of Iran.

The confirmation of Libya's first case, three weeks after the patient's arrival in the country, poses a test for its fragile medical system.

Attempts at a nationwide disease protection program have been undermined by the country's division between two rival governments, in the east and west of the country, and a patchwork of armed groups supporting either administration.

In Syria, where the healthcare system has been decimated by nearly a decade of civil war, the government said an apparently open-ended nightly curfew will go into effect on Wednesday.

In the impoverished Gaza Strip, which has detected two coronavirus cases, Hamas-run religious authorities shut down all mosques for two weeks.

An Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, imposed when the militant group took power in 2007, has slowed the arrival of the new virus to the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

The worst outbreak in the Mideast is unfolding in Iran, where authorities reported another 122 deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total number of fatalities to more than 1900 amid more than 24,800 confirmed cases.

Saudi Arabia reported Tuesday that its virus cases jumped from 562 to 767, and included its first death.