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Air raid sirens sound in Jordan to mark start of coronavirus lock-down

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Jordanian army members stand guard at a check point after the start of a nationwide curfew, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, in Amman, Jordan March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Jordanian army members stand guard at a check point after the start of a nationwide curfew, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, in Amman, Jordan March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

REUTERS

Jordanian army members stand guard at a check point after the start of a nationwide curfew, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spread, in Amman, Jordan March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Air raid sirens echoed across Jordan's capital to mark the start of a three-day curfew, the latest mass lock-down in the Middle East aimed at containing coronavirus.

It came as officials in Iran confirmed its death toll from Covid-19 has increased by 123 to 1,556.

Iran is enduring the worst outbreak of the virus in the Middle East and has faced widespread criticism for its slow response to it.

It now has 20,610 confirmed cases, according to figures released by the Health Ministry on Saturday.

In one of the strictest measures yet, Jordan has ordered all shops to close and all people to stay off the streets until at least Tuesday, when it plans to announce specific times for shopping. Anyone caught violating the curfew faces up to one year in prison.

Jordan has reported 85 cases of the virus so far, including one patient who recovered.

Several countries in the Middle East have closed schools, universities and non-essential businesses, and many have threatened fines or time behind bars for those caught violating the decrees.

Iraq, which has reported 193 cases and 14 deaths, has struggled to maintain a week-long curfew in Baghdad as religious pilgrims have continued to try to visit a major Shia Muslim shrine in the capital.

The tiny, energy-rich nation of Qatar is urging citizens to honour home quarantine rules. The state-run Qatar News Agency said authorities "captured 10 people" who broke the rules, and warned those who disobey the orders could face prosecution.

Qatar has reported 460 cases, including 10 who have recovered.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian security forces arrested 20 Muslim preachers for allegedly violating a ban on holding Friday prayers, the Voice of Palestine reported. The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank, has closed mosques and barred all group prayers.

Abdallah Kmail, the governor of Salfit, said a village in the northern West Bank was locked down after a man who returned from Pakistan and tested positive for the virus participated in prayers held in violation of the ban.

The Palestinian Authority has reported 47 confirmed cases, including 17 who have recovered.

PA Media