Algeria to raise Covid-19 healthcare capacity

19 November 2020
The North African country plans to raise its capacity for Covid-19 patients as Mena case tally approaches 3.25 million mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 3,249,583 on 19 November, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 30.4 per cent (989,398) of all regional cases, while Iran's 801,894 cases make up 24.7 per cent of all confirmed cases in Mena.

Infections continue to grow in the wider Mena region. Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and Syria together comprise 44.9 per cent – or 1,458,291 – of the nearly 3.25 million infections confirmed in the Mena region. 

Lebanon has confirmed 110,037 cases to date, with 62,528 recoveries and 852 deaths.

On 18 November, Caretaker Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan signed an agreement with the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, represented by its president Sleiman Haroun.

The ministry and the syndicate agreed to raise tariffs that were agreed upon in October for personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, provided private hospitals receive and treat all individuals infected with the new coronavirus.

"There is no excuse any more for these hospitals' reluctance to receive [Covid-19] patients," Hassan added.

The healthcare system's capacity to contend with Covid-19 will also be increased in Algeria by 65 per cent.

Assistant manager in charge of health services at the Health Ministry, Lamia Yacef, said on 18 November that the capacity of hospitals receiving patients with Covid-19 across Algeria stands at 49.49 per cent for admissions and 38.66 per cent for intensive care units (ICUs).

Covid-19 in the Mena region:

(19 November 2020)

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 354,208
  • Recoveries: 341,515
  • Deaths: 5,710

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 November: General Presidency of the Grand Holy Mosque & Prophet's Holy Mosque Affairs reveals sterilisation programme for the Grand Mosque in Mecca. The operation requires more than 4,000 workers in four shifts, and the process of cleaning and sterilising the mosque and its courtyards takes 35 minutes.
  • 2 November: Health Ministry warns of second wave of Covid-19. The ministry’s undersecretary for public health, Hani Joukhadar, said second waves were already prevalent in parts of Europe, adding: "In Saudi Arabia, we expect an increase in cases as the weather is changing and more people are encouraged to go out and gather in homes. We also notice that people are less committed to wearing masks in public places."
  • 18 October: President General of the Grand Holy Mosque & Prophet's Holy Mosque Affairs, Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz al-Sudais, inaugurates disinfection and sterilisation device at the Prophet’s Holy Mosque and Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifah.
  • 12 October: Health Ministry calls on patients with uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, cirrhosis and coronary artery disease, among others, to postpone Umrah plans as Covid-19 risks persist. 

 Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 27 October: Cabinet approves plan to allocate SR500,000 ($133,340) for families of health workers who have died from Covid-19. The grant will apply to those who worked in both public and private sectors, civilian or military and to all nationalities, and recorded their infection from 2 March onwards. 
  • 25 October: Hajj & Umrah Ministry issues guidelines for Umrah performers from outside Saudi Arabia, who will be permitted to conduct the pilgrimage under the third phase of the kingdom's programme from 1 November. Pilgrims aged 18-50 years will be permitted, and they must provide a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) examination certificate with a negative result received within 72 hours before the time of departure to the kingdom. Pilgrims must also have a prior reservation to perform Umrah and prayers in the Grand Mosque and to visit other holy sites.
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 154,101
  • Recoveries: 145,537
  • Deaths: 542

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 4 November: Abu Dhabi Crisis, Emergencies & Disasters Committee updates the requirements to enter the emirate, as part of efforts to enhance the preventative measures for the early detection of Covid-19. Residents and visitors who enter Abu Dhabi from 8 November and stay for four or more consecutive days will be required to take a PCR test on the fourth day of their stay. If they stay for eight or more consecutive days, they must take another PCR test on the eighth day. Entry must be within 48 hours of receiving a negative PCR or diffractive phase interferometry (DPI) test result. The current PCR test required on day six will not be mandatory for those entering from 8 November, and volunteers in Covid-19 vaccine trials are exempt from the measures.
  • 2 November: Khalifa University of Science & Technology says a team of researchers at its Aerospace Research & Innovation Centre is developing a reusable 3D-printed mask as a potential replacement for standard N95 masks that are in short supply. A prototype has already been printed and, once completed, an assessment will be performed before it is qualified and approved.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 18 November: Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (DCAA) reviews steps taken to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on the city's cultural sector. DCAA and Art Jameel launched a small grants programme for artists and creators affected by the pandemic, and the authority signed a partnership with LinkedIn to support creators and artists with more than 100 online training courses free of charge.
  • 17 November: Federal Authority for Identity & Citizenship (ICA) issues decision to extend the grace period of exemption for all violators of the entry and residence of foreigners law until 31 December 2020. The extension is for those who violated the entry and foreigners’ residence law before 1 March. These individuals will be exempted from all fines, including those for national ID cards, provided they leave the country. Director-general of foreigners affairs and ports at ICA, Saeed Rakan al-Rashidi, said the grace period extension is to enable violators to adjust their status in the country before the end of the year.
  • 16 November: Central Bank of the UAE extends applicability period of Targeted Economic Support Scheme (Tess) until 30 June 2021. The economic stimulus package was launched in March to support relief measures in the banking sector. The central bank will extend the duration of the AED50bn, zero-cost facility for retail and corporate banking customers for six months. From 1 January 2021, banks and finance companies participating in the Tess scheme will be able to provide new loans and facilities to customers impacted by Covid-19 in the UAE. To date, Tess's loan deferral programme has supported 310,000 retail customers, 10,000 small and medium-sized enterprises and 1,500 private sector companies, a statement carried by state-run Wam said.
  • 15 November: Sharjah Economic Development Department reopens wedding and event halls as part of the gradual plan for the return of economic and social activities in the emirate. Precautionary measures to be followed include wearing face masks and gloves, adhering to a 2 metre social distancing policy, and ensuring that attendance levels do not exceed 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity.
  • 13 November: Omani citizens exempted from the requirement of prior approval to enter the country through land ports from 16 November. They are required to present a negative PCR test result, provided the pre-examination is from accredited laboratories in their country and that the validity period of the test does not exceed 48 hours from the date of the test. They are also required to conduct a Covid-19 test at the ports upon arrival and follow all preventive and precautionary measures according to the approved protocols, in addition to installing the Al-Hosn mobile application. A PCR test is obligatory on the fourth day if they have stayed for four consecutive days in the UAE.
  • 10 November: Researchers from New York University Abu Dhabi’s biology programme and Centre for Genomics & Systems Biology have implemented a three-step testing approach that promises to significantly and cost-effectively improve testing accuracy for Covid-19. 
  • 8 November: Mubadala Healthcare says it is part-funding the trial of an immune-dampening drug in the UK that will help patients with diabetes overcome the effects of the virus. The UK’s Medicines & Healthcare Products Agency approved the trial, known as Arcadia, following preclinical research that suggests a glucose kinase activator (AZD1656) could help diabetes patients with Covid-19 by dampening the overactive response of the immune system that is typically acute in those patients with raised blood glucose levels. The trial commenced on 29 September, and involved hospitalised patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms. If successful, the compound could ultimately be prescribed by a primary care physician for people with diabetes presenting with early Covid-19 symptoms.
  • 4 November: Industry & Advanced Technology Minister Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber chairs the first meeting of the National Covid-19 Crisis Recovery Management & Governance Committee. The committee's working plan was presented and working groups were identified for target sectors that include health, education, food, society, security and the economy. The proposal for a strategic plan for recovery from Covid-19 was also reviewed. 
  • 3 November: Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan al-Qasimi, Crown Prince, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, and Chairman of Sharjah Executive Council, approves the second stimulus package of Sharjah government incentives. The value of the second stimulus package is AED512m. Incentives in the first package were estimated at AED481m. 
  • 2 November: Dubai Economy reveals it has conducted a workshop exploring how the public and private sectors can collaborate and co-shape the healthcare sector in the city following the global Covid-19 outbreak. Separately, Al-Jalila Foundation awards AED2.5m in seed grants to five UAE-based medical researchers focused on Covid-19. The Covid-19 research grants in the areas of genetics, therapies and diagnosis are the first to be awarded under the remit of the recently inaugurated Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical Research Institute to help enhance the UAE’s capacity to address the pandemic and other viral diseases in the future. The UAE's Central Bank, meanwhile, reviewed the Targeted Economic Support Scheme that aims to reduce the impact of Covid-19 by easing financing burdens in the country. To date, the loan deferment scheme has supported more than 10,000 small and medium-sized enterprises and 1,500 private sector companies.
  • 1 November: The Ajman Emergency, Crisis & Disaster Team allows the resumption of wedding celebrations and other occasions held in halls, hotels and houses in the emirate from 1 November. Major General Sheikh Sultan bin Abdullah al-Nuaimi, commander-in-chief of the Ajman Police and chairman of the team, said that the decision stipulates that the number of invitees should not exceed 200 in venues and 50 in celebrations held at home, while only five people are allowed to sit at the same table, emphasising that all participants must adhere to the precautionary measures adopted by the country, such as wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 85,182
  • Recoveries: 83,087
  • Deaths: 337

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 3 November: Bahrain authorises the emergency use of a coronavirus vaccine among frontline healthcare workers in direct contact with active Covid-19 cases. The approval follows similar efforts in the UAE last month.
  • 1 November: The Health Ministry suspends classes at Al-Rawabi private school as a precautionary measure for 10 days from 2 November. Online classes will be held during the period.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 10 November: Infectious diseases consultant and microbiologist at the BDF Hospital, Manaf al-Qahtani, says Bahrain placed an order in August to purchase more than 1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccines being developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinopharm. 
  • 3 November: Health Ministry to sell rapid antigen test in pharmacies across Bahrain, with a ceiling price of BD4. The Covid-19 rapid antigen test provides results in 15 minutes with an accuracy rate of 93 per cent.
  • 2 November: Cabinet approves draft budget for 2021-22 fiscal year, which estimates revenues of BD2.28bn and BD2.33bn in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Overall deficit is estimated at BD1.2bn in 2021 and BD1.1bn in 2022. Manama said its fiscal balance programme had achieved goals set for 2019, but lowered oil prices and "the unprecedented economic impact of Covid-19 on non-oil revenues has increased the overall deficit". 
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 138,337
  • Recoveries: 129,839
  • Deaths: 857

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 23 October: Health Ministry says allegations of patients being denied hospital admission are "divorced from reality", adding that citizens and residents must continue to adhere to precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 3 November: Kuwait carrier Jazeera Airways is revealed to have laid off 200 staff in September, with the move predominantly covering pilots and cabin crew. The airline had let go of 300 staff in March.  
  • 28 October: Cabinet handpicks seniors, patients with chronic diseases, medics, frontline workers and providers of basic services as major categories to be vaccinated against Covid-19 once the country takes delivery of a first shipment of vaccines.
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 121,129
  • Recoveries: 112,014
  • Deaths: 1,360

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 12 November: Health Minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saeedi says the reduction in case numbers should not be taken as an excuse to ignore precautionary measures, adding: “We intend to obtain enough vaccines to cover 40 per cent of the population as a first stage, hopefully before the end of this year.”
  • 1 November: Supreme committee managing Covid-19 says arrivals to Oman must undergo a PCR test within a period of not more than 96 hours prior to entry time. They should also undergo the same test upon arriving in Oman, observe a seven-day quarantine period and repeat the PCR test on the eighth day. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 10 November: Labour Ministry says expatriate workers wishing to leave Oman and return to their home country are allowed to do so from 15 November 2020. The ministry also exempted all employers and expatriate workers from fees and fines registered against licences for practicing professions by expatriate workers, provided they leave the sultanate between 15 November and 31 December. This is in line with the decisions of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from Covid-19, the Labour Ministry said.
  • 1 November: Finance Ministry announces the Fiscal Balance Plan 2020-24 in response to the slump in oil prices and Covid-19.  
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 136,441
  • Recoveries: 133,473
  • Deaths: 235

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 19 November: 2020 FIFA Club World Cup, due to be held in Qatar in December, is rescheduled to 1-11 February 2021. 
  • 21 October: Chairman of National Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Hamad Medical Corporation's infectious diseases division, Abdullatif al-Khal, says schools will be closed for two weeks if three Covid-19 cases are detected in the same class, or if 5 per cent of students or staff are infected. The number of cases among school students is less than 1 per cent of the total national tally, he said, adding: "Epidemiologists in Qatar do not expect a new wave but the picture will become clear about the possibility of a new wave of the virus during the next four or eight weeks."

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 11 November: Administrative Development, Labour & Social Affairs Ministry to resume process of issuing labour recruitment from 15 November after a temporary suspenion due to Covid-19. The entry of new recruits will continue according to the travel and return policy of Qatar specified by the Supreme Committee for Crisis Management.
  • 10 November: Pfizer's and BioNTech's vaccine, if approved, could reach Qatar in the coming months. Chair of the National Health Strategic Group and head of infectious diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, Abdullatif al-Khal, said: "We have been working with Pfizer and BioNTech since the summer and they are confident that if their vaccine gets the necessary regulatory approval, Qatar will be able to receive an initial quantity of vaccines by the end of this year, or very early in 2021.”
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 801,894
  • Recoveries: 576,983
  • Deaths: 42,941

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 16 November: President Hassan Rouhani instructs authorities to "clearly and accurately" communicate newly planned curbs for 'red', 'yellow' and 'orange' risk zones by 18 November, three days before the restrictions take effect. 
  • 15 November: Rouhani declares “the general mobilisation of the nation and the government” to combat the third wave of Covid-19 in the country, adding: “I call on all governmental organisations and other forces and institutions to rush to the aid of the Health Ministry and health workers with all possible means."
  • 14 November: Rouhani says a plan has been prepared to intensify restrictions from 21 November, including a shutdown of businesses and services and restrictions on cars leaving more than 100 cities. He added: "The goal of the intensification of these restrictions is for the people to fully understand that this is an state of emergency and everyone must help to get us out of this situation with the least harm."
  • 10 November: Nightly curfew to be imposed on businesses in Tehran and other cities as measure to prevent overwhelming hospital capacity. For one month, all businesses in the capital and 30 other cities must close at 6pm, AP reports. Only grocery stores and pharmacies are allowed to remain open.
  • 5 November: Rouhani announces severe restrictions for two weeks in red zones, understood to cover 25 provinces.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 21 October: Rouhani calls on vice president and head of the Plan & Budget Organisation, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, to fulfil all demands by local nurses "with high priority". 
  • 19 October: Rouhani says the government performs 25,000 Covid-19 tests a day and will soon fund the cost of an additional 15,000 daily tests. He added that Iran could purchase up to 20 million testing kits if required, "but in the meantime, we will buy as much as necessary".
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 111,613
  • Recoveries: 101,421
  • Deaths: 6,495

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 November: Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly warns of harsher wave of Covid-19 and calls on residents to comply with precautionary measures. Face masks are mandatory in public in Egypt, and violators will be fined £E4,000.
  • 16 November: Alexandria governor, Mohamed el-Sherif, calls for greater compliance with precautionary measures, both individually and by businesses, as government departments brace for second wave of Covid-19. 
  • 3 November: Cabinet spokesperson, Nader Saad, says the government is preparing to take tough action against individuals and companies flouting Covid-19 precautionary measures. This includes a £E4,000 fine on those not wearing masks in designated areas, closing schools for 28 days if a Covid-19 case is detected and increasing the amount of flu vaccine available for the public from 500,000 shots to 2.5 million.
  • 2 November: Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly calls on citizens to comply with precautionary measures and warns of "difficult steps similar to those applied before", such as lockdowns, if Covid-19 regulations continue to be flouted. 
  • 1 November: Health ministry launches precautions that schools must follow to curb the spread of Covid-19. "In case infection rates rise, the decision to shift to online education for the semester will be taken," Education Directorate director, Mohammed Attia, said.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 16 November: Higher committee for Covid-19's management has agreed to open 320 hospitals as infection numbers grow, advisor to the president for health and prevention affairs, Mohamed Awad Tajuddin, reportedly said. The hospitals will be prioritised to reduce the overcrowding of patients in local clinics treating chest issues and fevers. Separately, local pharmaceutical company Pharco Corporation's CEO, Sherine Helmy, says the company is "working on finding more than one alternative for [Covid-19] vaccines in Egypt [...] so we can negotiate the price later". Helmy said Pharco plans to localise the manufacturing of the Covid-19 vaccine and export it to Africa, adding agreements are in place with Burundi, Mali, Tanzania and Nigeria to establish pharmaceutical plants. The agreements entail three phases: transit for 1.5 years, packaging for another 1.5 years, and full manufacture, local media reported.
  • 10 November: Health & Population Ministry says it has reserved Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine to meet 20 per cent of its needs. 
  • 2 November: South Korean government's official development assistance fund provides $200,000 to improve facilities at El-Salhya El-Gedida Central Hospital in Al-Sharqiah governorate. Seoul provided $200,000 in cash to fund emergency health response activities in Egypt in May, and followed it with $500,000-worth of medical supplies such as test kits and face masks in August. Separately, Health & Population Minister Hala Zayed says Cairo's Vacsera has prepared a production line for a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine after it is approved. Egypt and China are collaborating on three vaccines under development. 
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 526,852
  • Recoveries: 455,176
  • Deaths: 11,795

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 25 September: Flights to Iran will be suspended for 15 days over coronavirus concerns. The decision includes "all direct flights from local airports to the airports of the Islamic Republic of Iran, after the announcement of detecting coronavirus cases in some Iranian areas", authorities said.
  • 5 September: Health Ministry warns it may "lose control" of the pandemic if people do not comply with precautionary measures. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 11 November: Cabinet says public sector salaries will be paid after the parliament approves the draft fiscal deficit law this week. 
  • 8 November: Higher Committee for Health & National Safety, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, agrees to start new academic year from 29 November, and authorises the payment required for purchasing the first batch of the coronavirus vaccine from the Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunisation (Gavi).
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 163,926
  • Recoveries: 94,896
  • Deaths: 1,969

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 November: Industry, Trade & Supply Minister Maha al-Ali says inspection teams comprising members of 13 government departments and the Public Security Directorate (PSD) have been formed to monitor institutional compliance with rules about face masks and social distancing. Transport Minister Marwan Khaitan called for tightening penalties on violators of precautionary measures, as well as increasing inspections on public transport, alongisde the PSD.
  • 16 November: Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh mandates closure of recreational and sports facilities as part of measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Circular No. 15 orders closures from 17 November and stipulates a ban on serving hookah, with fines of JD500-1,000 set for violating any restrictions. 
  • 14 November: Acting Interior Minister Bassam Talhouni says holding gatherings or celebrating events in all their forms will not be allowed in exploitation of the end of the four-day blanket lockdown and return to the partial curfew. The acting interior minister made his remarks following the issuance of Defence Order No. 22, which increases penalties for holding, organising, attending or participating in gatherings to a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine of up to JD3,000. Separately, director of Ma'an Health Affairs, Amjad Abu Darwish, says work is under way to build a field hospital in the southern governorate to treat coronavirus patients. Construction has begun on a plot of land near Ma'an Governmental Hospital, with a capacity of 250 beds, including 50 beds that are designated for the CU. The Health Ministry will provide all services and medical equipment to the new facility.
  • 11 November: Interior Minister Taqfiq Halalmeh instructs administrative and local governors to activate Defence Order No. 20, which bans gatherings and requires "the use of preventive measures and equipment for public safety", state news agency Petra reported. Halalmeh said the toughest legal and administrative measures will be taken against those who flout the defence order, adding that individuals who held election rallies on 10 November and engaged in festive firing will be tracked down and apprehended.
  • 1 November: Health Minister Nazir Obeidat says the ministry is planning to establish three field hospitals for Covid-19 patients in the northern, central and southern parts of the country. "The ministry is in the final stages of signing a contract with a private hospital in Amman, and will provide about 200 regular beds and about 40 others for intensive care." Separately, the government will extend curfew hours as of 2 November, as part of which businesses will be allowed to operate until 9pm and public movement will be permitted from 6am to 10pm, Khasawneh said. Fitness centres and public swimming pools, including those in hotels, residential and tourist complexes, as well as entertainment and recreational cities and children's indoor play areas, are also closed until further notice.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 17 November: King Abdullah directs the government to make the National Centre for Security & Crisis Management the main point of reference for handling the Covid-19 crisis.
  • 16 November: Defence Order No. 23 for 2020 issued by Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh, allowing health minister to take charge of any hospital for Covid-19 treatment and authorising the Health Ministry to fix a price for Covid-19 treatment in private hospitals. The government plans to treat Jordanian patients with Covid-19 for free in private hospitals if their transfer was approved by the Health Ministry. The ministry is working with the Civil Service Bureau to procure 2,000 additional health professionals to manage the virus and develop its capacity post-pandemic, Health Minister Nazir Obeidat says. 
  • 15 November: Jordan Society of Tourism & Travel Agents (JSTA) says several tourism and travel businesses have informed the organisation of plans to shut their doors and lay off employees prior to the end of 2020. The planned closures are triggered by revenue losses and a slowdown in global tourism due to Covid-19, JSTA said, according to state news agency Petra. JSTA said 60 travel businesses have closed their doors to date in the country.
  • 8 November: Obeidat says the transfer of Covid-19 patients from government hospitals to rented private hospitals will begin at the end of the week, noting that the private sector will provide the medical sector with about 1,050 beds and 180 intensive care beds. The government has signed a contract with a private company specialised in building field hospitals, under the supervision of the Audit Bureau and the Integrity & Anti-Corruption Commission, to develop three field hospitals in the country's north, central and south regions.
  • 6 November: Royal Jordanian Airlines announces that the cancellation of scheduled flights due to the lockdown that was imposed since March has resulted in ticket refunds of about JD35.4m. The company has entered into discussions with aircraft lessors and lenders to reschedule its leases and loan payments due during the lockdown period.
  • 5 November: Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) says it has allowed the beneficiaries of the JD500m Finance Facilitation Programme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to postpone their loan payments to the end of 2021. The CBJ said the programme's implementation controls have been altered by the Jordan Loan Guarantee Corporation to allow banks to extend the grace period given to SME customers until the end of 2021. The Finance Facilitation Programme will help SMEs obtain affordable funding to cope with the negative effects of Covid-19 and stem potential job losses, the CBJ said.
  • 3 November: Health Ministry inks agreement with the Private Hospitals Association to allocate at least 1,000 beds and 150 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients who will be referred to private hospitals by public hospitals, if needed. Prices have been capped to reduce the burden on the ministry.
  • 2 November: Civil Service Bureau says it has appointed 200 doctors, 500 nurses and 25 lab technicians to the Health Ministry, and another 100 doctors will undergo procedures to take jobs in public hospitals, all as part of efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic. Among the appointees were 100 doctors, 330 nurses and 25 lab technicians in Amman, and the rest filled vacancies in Balqa, Zarqa and the central region. The additional 100 doctors will join public hospitals in the northern Irbid governorate and in the south of Jordan.
  • 1 November: The EU has committed $50m to support the World Health Organisation's (WHO) efforts to strengthen primary healthcare services under the Jordan Health Programme for Syrian Refugees & Vulnerable Jordanians. The WHO said that the funds will support the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic while expanding access to services to vulnerable Jordanians and Syrian refugees.
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 110,037
  • Recoveries: 62,528
  • Deaths: 852

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 November: Supreme Defence Council plans complete closure on 14-30 November to curb the spread of Covid-19. Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said: "The closure decision is difficult, but if we do not resort to closure the reality will be more difficult, and what is required of all the military and security services is to be alert in all regions to strictly implement it, as there should not be areas that do not comply with the procedure."
  • 7 November: Diab says a detailed study has been requested from Caretaker Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan, to decide whether the country must re-enter a complete lockdown. 
  • 1 November: Hassan cautions against flouting critical precautionary measures, adding: "Today, we are at a very dangerous juncture and we have approached the catastrophic scene. Responsibly, the losses can be reduced and the epidemic deterioration taking place can be avoided."
  • 11 October: Interior Ministry shuts bars and nightclubs until further notice and enforces local lockdowns on 169 villages and districts across the country, up from 111 earlier in the month. The ministry also underscored the importance of complying with the 1am-6am curfew and the use of masks.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 18 November: Caretaker Public Health Minister Hamad Hassan signs agreement with the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, represented by its president Sleiman Haroun, to raise tariffs agreed upon in October for PPE and ventilators for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, provided private hospitals receive and treat all individuals infected with the new coronavirus. Hassan said the agreement marked the ministry's affirmation of demands made by private hospitals, adding: "There is no excuse anymore for these hospitals' reluctance to receive [Covid-19] patients." Separately, a sit-in is said to have been organised by protestors outside the Interior Ministry in Beirut to protest deteriorating economic conditions amid the total lockdown in place until the end of November. President of the Beirut Traders Association, Nicolas Chammas, told Arab News: “Hunger can spur riots that lead to dangerous consequences. We are fully aware of the decisions taken to protect the public’s health, but there is also hunger [to consider]. Some of those affected [by the closures] are calling for civil disobedience or the violation of the closure decision.” 
  • 16 November: Hassan says the health ministry, during a meeting with the World Bank, discussed the latter's loan and ways of streamlining "bureaucratic procedures that prevent the purchase of equipment for government hospitals". Hassan also met with the head of the Hospitals Syndicate in Lebanon, and assured the ministry's readiness to transfer payments of public and private hospitals, worth about £Leb235bn, to the Finance Ministry. He added: "We have also completed the procedures for the payment of reconciliation contracts, which amounted to £Leb263bn." A shipment of 5,500 Remdesivir tablets has arrived in Lebanon, at an official price of £Leb760,000. Half of these will be distributed to hospitals, with the rest to be kept with agents for direct sales, "so as to avoid the drug being sold in the black market, as has happened before". 
  • 14 November: Hassan says Lebanon has signed two agreements for Covid-19 vaccines. The first is with the Kovacs global vaccination platform to reserve a quantity for 20 per cent of the most vulnerable Lebanese citizens, and the second with Pfizer to secure additional vaccines for 15 per cent of citizens, noting that the transfer of the amount needed to cover these orders lies with the Lebanese central bank, Banque du Liban. The second agreement has been signed with the Covax facility, and together with the Pfizer vaccine, around 2 million doses of the vaccine may be available. Hassan added: "A technical committee has been formed to administer the vaccine, as eight storage centres will be approved in the governorates, provided that the Public Health Ministry will define in all transparency and fairness the groups that need to be vaccinated." He said he expects the Pfizer vaccine to be available during February 2021.
  • 11 November: Qatar's Emiri Air Force sends two field hospitals for Tyre and Tripoli to Rafic Hariri International airport. The facilities will support Al-Roum and Jeitaoui hospitals. Caretaker health minister Hassan, meanwhile, denied that Lebanon is not spending $50m-worth of funding available for Covid-19 prevention measures, adding: "This matter is inaccurate. We are spending the loan money in the right time and place, and within an organised plan."
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 306,995
  • Recoveries: 253,351
  • Deaths: 5,013

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 17 November: Results of clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine involving 600 Moroccan volunteers have been "very positive", says Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb. He added: "It demonstrated its efficiency in phases 1 and 2."
  • 10 November: National flag carrier Royal Air Maroc says that passengers arriving to Morocco will have to present a negative PCR test result taken less than 72 hours previously while checking in for their flight. 
  • 9 November: King Mohammed VI announces nationwide vaccination plan against Covid-19 in the coming weeks. The king said the decision was based on advice from the National Scientific Committee. The vaccination campaign will first target frontline workers from the health sector and security forces, as well as the elderly. A press release carried by state news agency MAP said the vaccine's safety, efficacy and immunogenicity have been proven through completed and ongoing studies, but it did not specify which vaccine would be used. The official statement said that the North African country was able to obtain "an advanced rank in the supply of the vaccine", which it did not identify, due to clinical trials it was able to participate in "thanks to the king's personal involvement".
  • 5 November: The government council decides to extend the state of health emergency across the national territory from 10 November to 10 December as part of efforts to curb the spread of the pandemic. 
  • 3 November: A total lockdown may be imposed if the health situation becomes uncontrollable, head of government, Saad Dine el-Otmani, says, adding: "None of us, officials or citizens, want a return to total lockdown, in view of its social, economic and psychological repercussions, but it remains a possible option if the epidemiological situation becomes uncontrollable."

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 17 November: Health Minister Khalid Ait Taleb says the framework agreement signed to participate in the vaccine trials paves the way for the transfer of expertise to Morocco, adding the vaccine will be produced in Morocco in the near future.
  • 11 November: Director of the biotechnology laboratory at the Faculty of Medicine & Pharmacy in Rabat, Azeddine Ibrahimi, says Morocco will receive about 10 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Frontline workers will be prioritised to receive the vaccine, which while be administered in two doses.
  • 4 November: African Development Bank approves $138.5m (MD1.2bn) grant to support Morocco's response to Covid-19. The funding constitutes an extension of the Social Protection Improvement Support Programme approved at the end of 2019 with a value of about $214.8m. The support programme will allow the acquisition of 666 additional resuscitation beds, in order to reach a total capacity of 1,350 equipped beds. It will also provide Morocco with sufficient screening tests and provide pharmaceutical products and devices, with emergency technical platforms to be upgraded for 78 hospitals.
  • 20 October: Health Ministry is allocated almost MD20bn in the appropriation bill for the year 2021, to fund Rabat's Covid-19 response. The solidarity contribution fund, meanwhile, will be limited to companies with net profits exceeding MD5m, Economy, Finance & Administration Reform Minister Mohamed Benchaaboun says. 
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 75,465
  • Recoveries: 46,127
  • Deaths: 1,053

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19: 

  • 14 October: General manager of Benina airport in Benghazi, Abdalla al-Shafee, denies reports that the facility will commence flights to Tripoli on 16 October. He reportedly added that 17 conditions need to be resolved before the airport can reopen, including the appointment of a specialised disinfection company; repairs to security machines; overdue staff payments; and the need for buses, forklifts and fuel. Airlines are also unwilling to fly at half-capacity, as required by the Libyan Anti-Coronavirus Committee, Libya Herald reported.
  • 7 September: Head of the National Centre for Disease Control, Bader al-Din al-Najjar, says health centres are under extreme pressure in Tripoli, calling for citizens to comply with precautionary measures and help curb the virus. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 16 November: Libyan Audit Bureau approves a contract by the Libyan Health Ministry to purchase Covid-19 vaccines worth $9.1m, state news agency Lana reports. Separately, Tripoli-Tunis flights resume after almost eight months of pandemic-induced closures. Libyan Airlines will operate three flights a week to Tunis Carthage airport. Land borders with Tunisia also reopened on 14 November. Tunisians residing near both countries' shared land border were expected to halt demonstrations and blockades against the restrictions amid passenger and cargo revenue losses. 
  • 23 October: State-held National Oil Corporation (NOC) announces lifting of force majeure at Sidra and Ras Lanuf ports, adding instructions have been given to initiate production arrangements.
  • 11 October: NOC lifts force majeure on the Sharara oilfield, which can pump as much as 300,000 barrels a day.
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 83,772
  • Recoveries: 58,229
  • Deaths: 2,541

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 November: Travellers to Tunisia must present a negative PCR test result received less than 72 hours before boarding. New measures planned to curb the spread of the virus also include conducting random rapid screening tests on passengers and mandatorily taking the positive cases to quarantine centres at their own expense. Starting from 16 November, new arrivals in Tunisia can choose between spending their mandatory quarantine period in a hotel or in their homes, following the approval of the local health services. The quarantine period may end if a PCR test conducted on their seventh day in Tunisia is negative. However, in case any symptoms appear during the isolation period, the PCR test will be conducted by the local health services at the state's expense. 
  • 4 November: Field hospital at Kram Exhibition Centre will shortly open for Covid-19 patients, Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi says. It has 100 ICU and 400 oxygen-fitted beds, and will commence operations with 30 beds. Another hospital is under development in Sfax, and the 18 ICU- and 160 oxygen-bed hospital will open soon. Mehdi says a decree will be issued to establish a telemedicine platform and offer remote patient care.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 18 November: Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi says Tunis has established contact with foreign laboratories to prepare for the acquisition of a Covid-19 vaccine, in line with WHO guidelines, adding case numbers and deaths due to the pandemic have "levelled off relatively since a package of preventive measures" was launched earlier this month. Separately, cultural activities have been allowed to partially resume from 23 November, starting with art residences, galleries and libraries. Restaurants will be allowed to stay open until 7pm instead of 4pm from 23 November, but coffee shops are excluded from this decision. 
  • 16 November: Tax applied to travel agencies as contribution to the Fund for the Development of Competitiveness in the tourism sector, set at TND2 on each seat offered by tourist transport conveyances, will be suspended for six months from January 2021, according to a decision by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi. The premier also approved granting tourist and handicraft establishments an extension of the deadline for filing corporate tax returns for the years 2019 and 2020 until 31 December 2021, with a rescheduling of payments from January 2022.
  • 13 November: The Department of Tourism has devised a strategy to ensure the sector's revival, Mohamed Moez Belhassine, director-general of the Tunisian National Tourist Office, says, adding: "We need to review and rethink everything. The crisis has shown that tourism activity suffers from major structural weaknesses, which we must remedy. We must also lay the foundations for a sustainable transformation of this sector. Our most urgent priority today is to strengthen the resilience of the tourism sector, by implementing the government measures taken in March, including those relating to the facilitation of credit to professionals, so that they can overcome their financial difficulties and thus maintain jobs. Concurrently, we have designed a training programme for tourism staff, with minimum wages [established]. The objective is to seize this break, caused by the pandemic, to improve and strengthen the skills of the staff and prepare them for post-Covid-19 recovery." Separately, air traffic with Libya to resume from 15 November.
  • 8 November: Two field hospitals will be set up in the Errimel and Mami beach areas in anticipation of an increase in Covid-19 cases, the local health director in Bizerte, Jameleddine Saidani, said. The Errimel hospital will have 50 beds. 
  • 4 November: Mechichi announces series of urgent measures to limit the economic and social impact of Covid-19 on professionals in the cultural and artistic sectors. He decided, in particular, to reschedule the debts of artists, creators and cultural institutions, under contributions to the social security system. The retirement allowance of professionals, namely artists, creators and intellectuals, will also increase to double the amount usually allocated to each member. In order to meet the needs of these groups and various workers in the sector, additional funds will be released before the end of 2020, bringing the overall value of the allocations to $2.1m (TD6m). The new measures also provide for relaxing procedures in connection with the reimbursement of contributions for professionals in the sector.
  • 3 November: The Health Ministry is considering the possibility of seeking the help of some of the estimated 3,000 Tunisian doctors working abroad, Mehdi says. The ministry will review the mechanisms to bring them to Tunisia as part of medical missions, but priority will be given to increasing recruitment. The ministry has signed contracts with anaesthesia and intensive care graduates to increase its manpower. Separately, the UAE sends 11 metric tonnes of medical supplies and ventilators to support 11,000 medical professionals in Tunisia. 
  • 1 November: A fundraising campaign for the purchase of ventilators to be used in the ICU and the Covid-19 unit at the local hospital of Tozeur, organised at the initiative of the coordination committee for the promotion of the health sector in Djerid. The campaign, which started a week ago, has achieved only 10 per cent of its goals despite the growing number of people testing positive, member of the coordinating committee, Salem Ben Salma, said.
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 70,629
  • Recoveries: 46,326
  • Deaths: 2,206

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 15 November: Additional measures introduced, including a partial lockdown from 8pm-5am in 32 provinces, for 15 days from 17 November. Used car markets across the country will be closed during the period, and sports arenas, leisure venues, beaches and cultural centres in the 32 provinces covered by the lockdown measures will be also closed for 15 days. Activities of stores and shops specialising in household appliances, decorative items, bedding and furnishing fabrics, sporting goods, games and toys, as well as hairdressing salons for men and women, patisseries and confectioners, cafes, restaurants and fast-food restaurants, will have to be limited to delivery and takeaway, and are also subject to close at 3pm.
  • 10 November: Friday prayers at the Great Mosque of Algiers suspended from 13 November. Prayers will resume at the mosque once health and safety conditions are met.
  • 9 November: President of the National Agency of Health Security, Kamel Sanhadji, urges compliance with precautionary measures, failing which cases have spiked in Algeria. Sanhadji said Algeria is not witnessing a second wave of Covid-19, which would scietifically require that the virus mutates or changes its characteristics, which is not presently the case in the country. 
  • 8 November: The start of the new academic and vocational training years has been postponed until 15 December, the Prime Minister’s Office said. The postponement of the start of the academic year, initially scheduled for 22 November, is part of the system adopted by the public authorities in the management of the health crisis. Partial lockdown hours also have been readapted from 8pm-5am in 29 provinces for 15 days, from 10 November. The amendment marks a revision to existing lockdown measures in 20 provinces and the introduction of curbs in nine others, including Adrar, Guelma, Illizi, Tindouf, Tissemsilt, El-Oued, Khenchela, Tipasa and Ain Temouchent. Nationally, using urban public and private transport is also prohibited at the weekends.
  • 5 November: Government decides to immediately implement an emergency action plan to contain the spread of Covid-19, during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad. This action plan will focus on tighter prevention measures, a more efficient communication strategy and the rigorous implementation of regulatory coercive measures. Algiers also plans to supply hospitals with equipment, PCR and antigen tests, protective equipment, oxygen supply and additional beds to ramp up treatment capacity.
  • 4 November: Djerad warns of "severe" measures if Covid-19 cases increase as schools reopen in Algeria, adding that health protocols established by ministries and local authorities must be adhered to. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 18 November: The healthcare system's capacity to contend with Covid-19 will be increased by 65 per cent, says assistant manager in charge of health services at the Health Ministry, Lamia Yacef. The current capacity of hospitals receiving patients with Covid-19 nationwide is 49.49 per cent for admissions and 38.66 per cent for ICUs.
  • 25 October: Director general of the Institut Pasteur d'Alger (IPA), Fawzi Derrar, says Algeria will receive rapid antigen testing kits in the coming days, adding Algiers plans to widen and standardise access to the tests across the country by March 2021, and increase the number of private laboratories approved to run PCR tests.
  • 19 October: Energy Ministry plans urgent measures to mitigate the financial impact of Covid-19, including the reduction of investment budgets for national oil and gas companies, Sonatrach and Sonelgaz, respectively, with the aim of saving AD150bn. The ministry has also considered reorganising both businesses so they focus on their core operations, modernising their management systems and optimising investment costs. The ministry also plans to reduce the operating budget of both public enterprises by 17 per cent, or AD182bn. Sonatrach and Sonelgaz are estimated to have faced losses of AD10bn and AD18.7bn between September 2019 and 2020 due to energy market trends and Covid-19.
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 2,083
  • Recoveries: 1,417
  • Deaths: 607

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 4 May: Public areas including government buildings, markets and mosques to be sprayed with disinfectant as local authorities move to curb Covid-19.
  • 11 April: Authorities in the southeast Yemen province of Hadramout move to curb Covid-19 in the port city of Al-Sheher by imposing further measures, where the country’s first case was announced on 10 April. A curfew from 6pm-6am has been imposed in all cities of the province. Hadramout governor, Faraj Salmen al-Bahsani, has urged residents to comply with the measures and stay indoors as much as possible.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 11 November: Kuwait Relief Society donates 15 ICUs to Yemen. The units will be distributed to eight quarantine centres in six governorates, and include supplies of oxygen, monitoring devices, beds, protection materials and respirators.
  • 7 October: Unicef says primary schools have reopened following months of closures. Preventive sanitary measures have been implemented and school schedules have been rearranged to avoid overcrowding.
  • 2 June: International donors pledge $1.35bn in aid for Yemen. Saudi Arabia's contribution totals $500m, with the UK offering $200m and Germany contributing $140m.
  • 18 May: Yemen’s Health Minister Nasser Ba’aom and Local Administration Minister Abdul Raqib Fatah appeal for international aid. “We need PPE supplies, ventilators, finance for the medical workers who work in the Covid-19 centres,” Dr Ba’aom said, according to UAE newspaper the National. “We also need medical equipment such as a complete biological units, testing kits, field hospitals and beds for the ICUs. Additionally, we still need food aid, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene.”
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 6,919
  • Recoveries: 2,868
  • Deaths: 358

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 21 October: Health Ministry launches campaign to distribute protective clothing and run more frequent Covid-19 testing for healthcare workers as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus. Influenza test kits will also be provided and healthcare workers in direct contact with Covid-19 patients will be tested for antibodies.
  • 16 August: Interior Ministry set to issue new regulations for travellers to and from Lebanon. Those entering Syria from Lebanon must present Covid-19 negative test results taken 96 hours prior to their arrival. The decision applies to truck drivers, diplomatic passport holders and aid workers, among other groups. Lebanon-bound passengers from Syria must present test results taken 24 hours prior to their flight. 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:

  • 24 October: Syria receives medical assistance from the WHO. The shipment, which arrived at Damascus International airport, includes PPE for health workers, medicines and medical supplies.
  • 21 October: President Bashar al-Assad issues decree approving an exemption on income tax amid tightening economic conditions. The decree covers all public and private sector workers. It exempts those earning £Syr50,000 ($40) or less a month from paying income tax and reduces the level of taxes paid in the lowest income bracket. Exemptions were previously offered for those earning less than £Syr15,000, according to a decree in 2015. Finance Minister Kinan Yaghi said the authority had also secured resources to disburse grants to citizens, and has called on banks not to charge fees until these grants have been issued. 
As of 9.30 GST, 19 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.

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