It is not clear how the Saudi ban on year-round pilgrimage to stave off covid-19 infection will affect the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina which begins in July. It also extends to visitors from coronavirus-affected countries – 45 in all by Thursday, affecting more than 82,000 people. Of the 2,800 fatalities, most were in China. The cases in Italy surged by 25pc in one day to 400 and are spreading across the European continent. IDF chiefs are being urged by the Health Ministry and reservists to cancel the annual US-Juniper 20 exercise opening in two weeks, since many US participants will be coming from the Naples base in Italy. Israeli travelers returning from Italy face 14 days in quarantine. South Korea has postponed joint military exercise with the US since soldiers from both armies have come down with coronavirus. President Donald Trump has put his deputy Mike Pence in charge of the US response.
Iran’s official figures are 139 cases of covid-19 and 19 deaths. Experts say that an apparent death rate of 14pc, much higher than the global ratio, indicates that the outbreak is a lot more extensive than Iran admits.