CAIRO - Arab media is reporting a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases across the Gulf, Iran and Egypt, as countries begin lifting curfews and other restrictions that were imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Despite a recent uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Egypt, the country's sports minister, Ashraf Sobhi, told a press conference Monday that soccer players would be allowed to resume training June 20, and league matches would resume next month. Sports clubs are also expected to begin reopening during the next 10 days.
The sports minister's optimism was tempered somewhat by the daily health ministry report that almost 100 people had died from the virus on Monday and that nearly 1,700 new cases had been registered. Health Minister Hala Zayed attributed the rise to older people contracting the virus.
She argued that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has risen mostly due to older people with chronic illnesses not seeking proper medical care during the latter part of the holy month of Ramadan.
Egyptian media also reported that the country's Islamic scholars at Azhar University have issued a fatwah prohibiting anyone from gathering up used surgical masks to wash and resell. It was not clear if the practice was adding to the number of coronavirus infections.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Iran has also increased in recent days, according to the country's Health Ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari. She indicated that nearly 200,000 Iranians have been infected with the coronavirus to date, but that over 150,000 have recovered.
She said that 2,563 new COVID-19 cases have been reported during the past 24 hours, with 939 patients hospitalized. She added that 115 people have also died from the virus during the past 24 hours.
Some Iranian opposition sources claim that the number of coronavirus cases in the country is much higher. However, VOA could not independently confirm those claims.
Iranian TV showed military officials lauding their efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, along with video of military vehicles disinfecting public buildings, parks, squares, city streets and boulevards.
The Saudi-owned London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases inside the kingdom in recent days as well, with a record 4,507 new cases reported Monday, along with 41 deaths during the past 24 hours.
Dr. Khaled Abdel Karim, Saudi deputy health minister, told Saudi TV that people should try to improve their health habits in order to strengthen their immune systems and avoid catching COVID-19.
He said that getting at least eight hours of sleep a night would strengthen a person's immune system, and advised eating lots of fruits and vegetables and drinking at least eight cups of water a day. He also urged people to stop smoking.
On a positive note, the number of deaths from COVID-19 in some parts of the Arab world, including Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, has reportedly decreased in recent days.