The Council of Arab Ministers of Health, which coordinate the improvement of basic health services in the Arab world, on Thursday called for an urgent meeting of experts to review plans to combat the spread of coronavirus, Asharq Al Awsat reported.

In a statement the council issued at the end of its 53rd regular session, it said: “It is necessary to enhance communication between the Arab member states, exchange information and continuous coordination between health organizations and related sectors in the Arab countries, as well as precautionary plans developed by Arab countries to confront this disease.”

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The statement urged Arab nations and organizations to follow up on the latest developments concerning the virus, adding that the Arab League was eager to share information in this regard with complete transparency and credibility.

The urgent expert meeting will take place in Cairo, in March, according to Asharq Al Awsat.

The worst case of the spread of the coronavirus in the Middle East is in Iran. Bloomberg News Middle East and Islamic world expert Bobby Ghosh on Thursday wrote (Iran can’t be trusted to deal with coronavirus) that Iran’s mismanagement of the coronavirus contagion represents “an imminent threat not only to Iranians but to all of the Middle East and Central Asia – and possibly, given the menacing nature of the microbe, the larger world.”

Iran already accounts for more coronavirus deaths than any country other than China. “Iranians know not to trust their government, and reports from Tehran tell of a growing panic. This will get worse, now that the official responsible for managing the outbreak has admitted that he has himself contracted the virus,” Ghosh wrote.

“Iran’s neighbors are as skeptical as Iranians of the regime’s claims. Most have already sealed off borders and canceled flights. In Iraq, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Lebanon, this came after the virus had already made landfall, carried by people arriving from the Islamic Republic,” he wrote.

As of Friday, there are more than 83,000 cases of coronavirus around the world, with more than 2,850 deaths. Most of them are in mainland China; 78,824 cases and 2,788 deaths.

71 virus-related deaths have been recorded outside mainland China: Iran: 26; Italy 17; South Korea: 13; Japan: 9; Hong Kong and France: 2 each; the Philippines and Taiwan: 1 each.

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