COVID-19 Continues to Spread Throughout MENA Region

A country-by-country overview of coronavirus incidences and government responses in the Middle East and North Africa.

  • By externalwire | March 9, 2020,4:51 pm
COVID-19 Continues to Spread Throughout MENA Region

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Algeria

Current cases reported: 17

The spread of COVID-19 has resulted in 17 cases in Algeria so far. 

Because 16 of these 17 cases belonged to a single family, Algerian authorities are hopeful they can contain the spread. 

On the evening of Sunday, March 8, the Algerian Ministry of Health published new guidelines for hospital directors. The government presented over $3 million in additional funding to fight the spread of the virus on Monday.

Bahrain

Current cases reported: 52

For an island nation as small as Bahrain, 52 cases indicate a relatively high infection rate. 

Bahrain’s close links in trade and travel across the Middle-East have presented the nation with a dilemma.

The government appears to be taking some preventative measures: The Formula One Grand Prix will go on as planned, but without the thousands of fans that usually attend such an event. 

Because of the frequency of travel in and out of the country, Bahrain’s Ministry of Health has asked citizens returning from Lebanon and Egypt to self-isolate.

Egypt

Current cases reported: 55

Reported cases are rising rapidly in Egypt, where the death of a 60-year-old German tourist in Hurghada marked the country’s first COVID-19 fatality on March 8.

Taiwan’s first reported case of the virus appears to have originated in Egypt. A Taiwanese woman who had recently visited Egypt as a tourist was diagnosed with the virus.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped from three to 45 in one day, according to Egyptian officials, highlighting the need for rapid isolation and containment of infected individuals.

Graphic: Global overview (WHO map, page 1)

Countries, territories or areas with reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, 01 March 2020

Iran

Current cases reported: unknown

With more than 7,000 confirmed infections and 237 reported deaths, Iran appears the worst-hit MENA-country thus far. 

The alarming number of infections among politicians and senior health officials indicates that the virus is poorly contained.

Reports that two senior politicians have died of COVID-19, as well as indications that the head of Iran’s corona-response, Esmail Najar, has been infected, offer little hope that the virus can be contained within Iran’s borders.

Iraq

Current cases reported: 56

Iraq has enough issues to keep its politicians awake at night already—protests against the government have brought the country to a standstill on several occasions and the country’s economic crisis affects every part of society. 

Muayyad Al-Alami, president of Iraqi Syndicated Journalists, has sounded the alarm that more trouble is ahead. 

Iraq has so far reported dozens of cases, but protesters have refused to abandon public events. On Friday night, protesters in Baghdad were heard singing, “let coronavirus come to Iraq to take revenge at militias and corrupt politicians.”

Footage:

The Iraqi government has so far approved emergency measures to try to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Iraq, including banning Shia pilgrimages to Najaf, as Anadolu Agency reports the number of confirmed cases now stands at 56.

Israel

Current cases reported: 39

With 39 cases reported, Israel scrambles to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

The Israeli government is considering quarantining all foreign visitors, regardless of their origin.

In Athens, an Israeli diplomat and his family were diagnosed with the virus. 

The Israeli Defense Ministry is contemplating a complete closure of the West Bank, as infections appear to have spread from Bethlehem to Nazareth.

Jordan

Current cases reported: 1

The Jordanian government is taking a careful approach, quarantining citizens who have traveled abroad and banning visitors from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran. 

Jordan now has 77 people under quarantine, down from 296 last week. Currently, no new cases have been reported and an increasing number of those under quarantine have been cleared.

Kuwait

Current cases reported: 65

Kuwait reported three new cases on Monday, March 9, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 65, according to the Ministry of Health. 

All suspected patients have been brought to a designated hospital for medical observation, with three patients in intensive care, Al-Arabiya reports.

Lebanon

Current cases reported: 28

On the day that Lebanon controversially defaults on its Eurobond obligation, further misery is heaped upon the country in crisis. 

Reuters reports that the country’s shortages of imported goods have not yet hampered the containment, but Lebanon’s close contact with several countries with high infection rates, as well as it’s connection with Iran, indicate that further spread of COVID-19 can be expected.

Libya

Current cases reported: ?

In a country with no effective government, an active civil war raging, and close contact with several countries with a relatively high incidence of the virus, it should stand to reason that the virus will have a significant impact on the country if it is not already. 

At the end of February, Libya’s Ministry of Health claimed there were no cases of the virus whatsoever, yet it remains to be seen if the Tripoli government could do anything at all to stop the virus given its lack of control over the country.

Morocco

Current cases reported: 2

Morocco confirmed its second case of the virus after a traveler from Italy was diagnosed in Casablanca last week. 

Both the public and private sectors are taking the virus seriously. All events with more than 1,000 attendees have been canceled and a national campaign is informing citizens how to avoid risk of contamination.

Oman

Current cases reported: 16

After detecting its 16th case of COVID-19, the government of Oman has decided to suspend all flights from Egypt. How effective the ban will remain to be seen: Out of the current reported cases, 15 originated in Italy and one is related to travel in Iran.

Palestine

Current cases reported: 7

The Palestinian Authority has declared a state of emergency after the virus has spread from Bethlehem to nearby Nazareth. Major economic hardships are expected as Israel closes borders and the Palestinian hospitality branch appears to be the current source of infection.

Qatar

Current cases reported: 15

Similar to Bahrain, Qatar’s small size and international outlook make it rife for contact with COVID-19 infected individuals. So far, 15 cases have been reported, prompting the country to ban travelers from 14 countries and close all schools and universities.

Pakistan

Current cases reported: 7

Pakistan reported its seventh case this weekend. The country’s close proximity and trade with Iran might result in an increase in the infection-rate in the near future. 

Pakistan has a lot at stake: The Asian Development Bank estimates the economy might lose $5 billion as a direct result of the virus.

Saudi Arabia

Current cases reported: 15

Saudi Arabia has so far reported 15 cases, including four new cases Monday, March 9. The government has suspended travel to and from nine countries, closed schools and universities, and quarantined an area home to half a million people.

Syria

Current cases reported:?

With many of its largest cities in rubble and several foreign military forces active within its borders, Syria is wholly unprepared for the inevitable spread of COVID-19. Bordered by countries where the virus has been detected, and working closely with Iran, it is only a matter of time until the scale of the virus in Syria is revealed.

Tunisia

Current cases reported: 2

Tunisia has so far reported two definitive cases of the virus. The government is currently discussing travel bans and contemplating closing its borders as Algeria’s travel and trade with Italy have become a risk factor.

United Arab Emirates

Current cases reported: 45

Like other Gulf countries, the UAE is experiencing a rising number of infections. 

The UAE’s position as a global hub for travel have led local airlines to issue waivers to customers now banned from flying. With a two-week vacation starting today, the government has urged teachers, school staff, and students not to travel abroad.

Yemen

Current cases reported: 0

WHO reported last week that no cases have been confirmed as of yet, warning that Yemen is ill-equipped to deal with the inevitable spread of the virus. 

The ongoing civil war means little to no containment is possible on a national level in Yemen. Houthi health officials reported to Al-Monitor that 193 Yemenis had recently returned from China and had been tested and released.

Read also: Coronavirus Impacting Business in the Middle-East

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