Covid-19 cases cross 2.5 million-mark in Mena

25 October 2020
Countries in the GCC account for 36.3 per cent of all regional infections, while Iran alone comprises 22.4 per cent

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 2,511,864 on 25 October, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 36.3 per cent (912,020) of all regional cases, while Iran alone comprises 22.4 per cent (562,705) of all 2.5 million cases.

To date, Iran has confirmed 450,891 recoveries and 32,320 deaths due to Covid-19. 

On 24 October, President Hassan Rouhani said compliance with precautionary measures is essential to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Iran.

He added: "Currently, there is no way to fight this virus other than observing health protocols."

Late last week, Iran's National Task Force for Fighting Coronavirus called for a reduction in the number of government employees in Tehran's offices by 50 per cent until the end of the month.

The task force also imposed an additional week of strict restrictions in 43 cities that are classified as 'critical status' for Covid-19.

Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Morocco and Lebanon together comprise 41.3 per cent (1,037,139) of all regional cases.

Covid-19 in the Mena region:

(25 October 2020)

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 344,552
  • Recoveries: 330,995
  • Deaths: 5,281

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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: Ministry of Health 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. 
  • 8 October: Distance learning will continue at Saudi schools until the end of the first term of the educational year, which concludes in December. 
  • 30 September: Ministry of Hajj & Umrah announces three-phase Umrah plan to ensure pilgrims' safety. Pilgrims must wait 14 days before performing Umrah for the second time. The Eatmarna app must be used to book Umrah slots.
  • 28 September: Saudi Arabia, which is presiding over the G20 this year, says the upcoming November gathering of world leaders will be held virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 17 October: Ministry of Hajj & Umrah announces plans for the second phase of the gradual resumption of performing Umrah. The second phase allows 15,000 Umrah performers and 40,000 worshipers a day at maximum capacity. Citizens and residents will be allowed to perform Umrah at 75 per cent of the premises' capacity, accounting for precautionary health measures across the Grand Mosque, and each group will be allocated three hours to complete the Umrah rituals.
  • 16 October: General Directorate of Passports starts automatic extension of the validity of final exit visas that were not used during the suspension period of entry to and exit from the kingdom until 31 October. This extension, which is backed by the Ministry of Finance, is free of charge for all expatriates whose extension period has expired.
  • 2 October: Property deals in Saudi Arabia exempted from 15 per cent VAT, and will instead face a new 5 per cent tax on transactions, as part of government measures to shore-up the local real estate sector. 
  • 30 SeptemberSaudi Arabia plans to cut government spending over the coming years, according to figures released by the Ministry of Finance in its pre-budget statement for the 2021 financial year. The planned spending cuts will follow a fall in government revenues this year, largely due to oil price fluctuations and the economic impact of Covid-19. 
  • 29 September: General Organisation for Social Insurance extends stimulus programme to support salaries of Saudi nationals in companies impacted by Covid-19. The programme originally covered 70 per cent of Saudi employees in firms with more than five workers, and applied to a several activities across the private sector. Initially due to expire in October, the programme will continue until January and support half of all Saudis working in a company still impacted by Covid-19 in sectors including travel, sports and entertainment.
  • 28 September: King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approve plan to exempt investors in municipal spaces from paying 25 per cent of rental fees. The decision will help 50,000 facilities deal with the economic effects of coronavirus by relieving them of payments worth $151.9m. Registration of Umrah pilgrims for the first 10 days completed. The Umrah pilgrimage and the visit to the Two Holy Mosques will commence in phases. In the first phase, citizens and expatriates will be allowed to perform Umrah from 4 October at 30 per cent capacity – equating to 6,000 Umrah performers per day.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 123,764
  • Recoveries: 116,894
  • Deaths: 475

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 12 October: Khalifa University of Science and Technology researchers develop prototypes of Nava Mask, a biodegradable environment-friendly anti-viral face mask. The team has filed for a patent licence for the mask's material, a project that Khalifa University worked on with Italy's University of Salerno. Phase 3 trials of adenovirus-based vaccine named Sputnik-V begin under the Russian Direct Investment Fund's partnership with Aurugulf Health Investment in the UAE. The trials will be conducted by the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, under the supervision of the UAE Ministry of Health & Prevention, with medical protocols handled by Abu Dhabi’s public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company. Dubai Health Authority says residents can book appointments to get tested for Covid-19 at malls including City Centre Mirdif, City Centre Deira and Mall of the Emirates. 
  • 4 October: National Emergency Crisis Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) forms seven inspection teams, one to be based in each emirate, to crack down on those failing to adhere to the strict coronavirus precautionary measures. Forty-six protocols have been put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19. 
  • 2 October: UAE nationals will no longer need to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before they board flights to Dubai, but will take a Covid-19 test once they land in Dubai, said NCEMA.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 24 October: Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, launches AED500m economic stimulus package to support various business sectors across the economy. The new package brings the total value of stimulus packages introduced by the emirates’ government in 2020 to AED6.8bn.
  • 22 October: Emirates SkyCargo to establish global Covid-19 vaccine distribution hub in Dubai. The airline will reopen the Emirates SkyCentral DWC cargo terminal in Dubai South. Emirates SkyCentral DWC has more than 4,000 square-metres of temperature-controlled pharma storage areas, and it is estimated that the facility can hold around 10 million vials of vaccine at 2-8°C temperatures.
  • 21 October: UAE cabinet amends bankruptcy law and adds articles related to emergencies impacting trade or investment, such as pandemics, wars or environmental disasters. The new amendments stipulate debtors will be exempted from commencing procedures to declare bankruptcy. If a debtor files an application that would be approved by the competent court, they can reach a settlement with creditors to arrange a grace period, or negotiate to settle the debt within 12 months.
  • 18 October: Supreme Committee of Crisis & Disaster Management in Dubai, headed by Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, announces wedding receptions will be allowed to resume in hotels, halls, homes, temporary venues and tents in residential areas from 22 October. Each hall is allowed to host a maximum of 200 people, while tents and homes are allowed to accommodate a maximum of 30 people, subject to compliance with the rule of one person per four square-metres of venue space. Attendees are required to wear face masks at all times and can remove them only when seated at their tables. Separately, interim committee responsible for the coordination and follow-up of the implementation of 33 initiatives to support the economic sectors, as part of the post-Covid-19 economic recovery plan, holds virtual meeting to approve three-phase plan. The first phase seeks to provide immediate support for business sectors and the economy by carrying out 15 major initiatives, while the second phase will launch complementary support for sectors to enable a rapid economic recovery. The third phase will provide integrated support to vital sectors and will chart a flexible development path for the economy.
  • 17 October: Dubai's Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) resumes operations of the four bus routes that serve the Global Village from the start of its new season 2020/21. The RTA will also resume the electric abra tourist services within Global Village from 25 October. 
  • 14 October: Air Arabia reveals plans to resume flights from Ras al-Khaimah International airport to four destinations in Egypt and Pakistan, and launches a new route to Dhaka. Flights to Cairo and Lahore, Peshawar and Dhaka, and Islamabad will resume from Ras al-Khaimah on 15, 16 and 17 October, respectively. The airline has also launched free Covid-19 cover on all flights, valid for 31 days from departure and including medical and quarantine expenses. 
  • 11 October: Abu Dhabi Customs launches new package of incentives and services, including the ability to replace bank guarantees with institutional guarantees, free transportation of goods between free zones and customs’ warehouses, applying simple electronic procedures and the use of smart systems for customs services. The Integrated Transport Centre of the Department of Municipalities & Transport in Abu Dhabi allows companies operating electric scooter (e-scooters) rental services in the UAE capital to gradually resume services at 25 per cent capacity at Al-Reem Island, Al-Maryah Island, Al-Zahia and Al-Dana, as well as parts of Al-Bateen, Corniche and Marina from 12 October.
  • 5 October: Federal Authority For Identity & Citizenship resumes issuing visas for domestic workers and entry permits for employees working for the country's government and semi-government organisations and other vital sectors. Department of Civil Aviation in Ras al-Khaimah says expatriate residents will be allowed to enter the emirate through Ras al-Khaimah International airport without prior permission from 15 October. They must carry the negative results of a Covid-19 test conducted in the past 96 hours, and travellers or their sponsors must cover the cost of another PCR test, as well as quarantine if the test result is positive. Tourists may also enter the UAE through the airport provided they have reserved air tickets, obtained tourist medical insurance, hold a 96 hours-old Covid-19 test result and fill in a medical disclosure form for authorities.
  • 3 October: Ministry of Presidential Affairs, in coordination with the National Emergency Crisis & Disaster Management Authority, announces the re-opening of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosques in both Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, as well as the Founder's Memorial in the UAE capital. Precautionary measures must be followed by visitors.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 79,975
  • Recoveries: 76,474
  • Deaths: 312

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 24 October: Royal Humanitarian Foundation distributes 10,000 masks across the kingdom's Southern Governorate.
  • 21 October: Rapid antigen test pilot programme to be rolled out imminently, targeting 20,000 individuals, including schools, healthcare workers and symptomatic patients. More than 8,000 rapid antigen tests, which are said to provide accurate results in 15 minutes, have been conducted to date. Separately, classes at the British School of Bahrain have been suspended for 10 days after a Covid-19 case was detected on 19 October. The school will not reopen until the Public Health Department confirms that no other positive cases have emerged.
  • 19 October: Education Ministry, in cooperation with Health Ministry, inspects private schools to ensure compliance with precautionary measures to curb Covid-19, such as temperature checks, social distancing and the provision of materials for frequent sterilisation.
  • 15 October: Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander, and First Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain, says precautionary measures have led to a 45 per cent decline in daily cases over the past four weeks and urges citizens and residents to continue adhering to safety guidelines. 
  • 14 October: Ministry of Health launches trials of rapid Covid-19 tests, which will initially include 20,000 inspections of teachers, students, frontline medical workers and symptomatic patients. The rapid test is said to be capable of delivering results in 15 minutes. So far, the testing equipment has been used on a trial basis with more than 2,700 patients.
  • 11 October: Interior Ministry says it has trained dogs from its medical canine detection section to detect Covid-19 at Bahrain's ports. 
  • 5 October: Travel temporarily suspended to destinations that "can adversely affect national efforts to curb the spread" of Covid-19. 
  • 3 October: Health Ministry consultant physician urges compliance with precautionary measures to curb spike in Covid-19 cases. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 23 October: Labour and Social Development Minister, Jameel bin Mohammed Ali Humaidan, issues circular stipulating the re-opening of Labour Ministry-licensed nurseries on 25 October amid strict precautionary measures. 
  • 21 October: Based on the recommendations of the National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus, indoor dining services at restaurants and cafes will resume on 24 October, capped at 30 customers per venue. A gradual return to in-person teaching at public schools and private nurseries will resume on 25 October for parents/guardians that have opted for in-class learning. 
  • 18 October: National Health Regulatory Authority licenses the first factory to produce medical face masks in Bahrain. The 750 square-metre plant will produce 2 million N95 medical face masks each month and 3 million surgical three-ply masks.
  • 1 October: Ministry of Education announces administrative, teaching and technical staff will resume work on 4 October, confirming staggered re-entry of 50 per cent of the teaching staff, with rotated school attendance. The 1 per cent of administrative and teaching staff who failed to respond to the ministry's call to undergo PCR tests will not be allowed back. Public school students will start the new school year on 11 October and will be required to study remotely at the beginning of the school year for two weeks. Students wishing to attend classes in person will be allowed to return to their schools on 25 October.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 120,927
  • Recoveries: 112,110
  • Deaths: 744

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 adhering to precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. 
  • 19 October: Cabinet reiterates call for citizens and residents to "seriously" comply with guidelines to curb Covid-19 as winter approaches, and to "continue committing themselves to public health precautions and preventive measures". 
  • 14 October: Government spokesperson Tareq al-Mezrem says all Covid-19 preventive measures continue to apply on arrivals to Kuwait, adding it is mandatory for all travellers to present negative PCR test results and all arrivals must also quarantine for 14 days at home. He dismissed rumours that some Arab travellers had been exempted from these requirements. 
  • 12 October: Cabinet assigns Ministry of Information to intensify public messaging about health requirements to curb the spread of Covid-19. Additional decisions included requiring appointments to eat out at restaurants and cafes, as well as to visit sports clubs. The country's main committee to manage Covid-19 was asked to intensify efforts to reduce the number of new infections in Kuwait.
  • 6 September: Ministry of Education issues decree to regulate private French, Indian, Pakistani and other curriculum schools during the 2020/21 academic year in light of Covid-19. The decree also specifies the mechanism for collecting tuition fees in three instalments, the first of which will be 40 per cent of the total fees and the remaining two 30 per cent each at British, American, bilingual and French foreign schools. Fees in schools with other foreign educational systems are to be collected in two instalments.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 21 October: Passengers arriving in Kuwait via a transit destination may no longer have to undergo PCR tests or quarantine at the stopover destination and may instead be tested directly upon arrival. Kuwait Airways chairman, Ali al-Dakhan, said the proposal is awaiting approval from health and civil aviation authorities. Al-Dakhan said the move could allow flights to operate on a 24-hour basis and improve the state-backed airline's revenues. Kuwait Airways plans to resume flights to Saudi Arabia from 25 October.
  • 15 October: Deputy director-general for Kuwait International Airport Affairs, Saleh al-Fadaghi, reportedly says the authority has submitted a proposal to lift the travel ban in place on 34 countries, calling to resume commercial flights and implementing the 14-day institutional quarantine period in Kuwait for those who are coming from the banned countries. This list of countries includes Egypt, India, Iran, China, Brazil, Colombia, Armenia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Syria, Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Iraq, Mexico, Indonesia, Chile, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen and Afghanistan, among others.
  • 7 October: National Assembly approves bill to support and ensure local banks' financing of customers affected by the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic. The draft law specifies the importance of encouraging banks to provide financing and "prevent the occasional shortage of liquidity from turning into a chronic and prolonged problem that affects [clients'] financial solvency".
  • 4 October: The Central Bank of Kuwait, which pegs the dinar to a basket of currencies dominated by the US dollar, reiterated its commitment to Kuwait's exchange-rate policy, responding to reports of a devaluation.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 111,837
  • Recoveries: 97,949
  • Deaths: 1,147

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 21 October: Supreme committee tasked with managing Covid-19 response expresses "extreme anxiety" about individuals flouting precautionary measures and urges compliance to reduce instances of infections. The authority also confirmed that the ongoing nighttime lockdown will end on 24 October.
  • 11 October: Royal Oman Police start implementation of new lockdown, adding that legal action will be taken against offenders and they will face trial before designated courts.
  • 9 October: Supreme committee to tackle Covid-19 announces new lockdown, which includes the prohibition of movement and lockdown of all public places and commercial outlets from 8pm to 5am on 11-24 October. Beaches have been closed and some business activities that did not comply with precautionary measures while reopening following the first lockdown will be reclosed. The names and pictures of offenders who violate the instructions will be published in the media. 
  • 7 October: Isolation ward funded by Oman LNG launched at Sur Referral hospital for patients with Covid-19. The ward has 12 rooms and will deliver time savings for medical staff, who would otherwise have to transport patients between various locations for treatment. 
  • 5 October: Minister of Health, Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saidi, says Oman is in touch with manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines, but a commercial manufacturing date has yet to be made available. 
  • 1 October: Flights resume in Oman, but land borders remain shut for regular travellers until further notice, with only the transport of goods, medical supplies and travellers with special permits allowed.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 21 October: Supreme committee confirms new academic year will begin on 1 November and approves blended learning model for students. 
  • 12 October: Sultan Haitham bin Tariq issues royal decree for Oman to implement a 5 per cent VAT in April 2021, as economic challenges deepen in the sultanate. Separately, Muscat announces budget deficit of RO826.5m by the end of 2020, with government spending reducing 8.4 per cent during the first half of 2020 compared to 2019, to reach RO5.6bn in June, amid expenditure cuts to stall the economic decline.
  • 5 October: First phase of field hospital for Covid-19 patients opens at old Muscat Airport. Phase 1 of the hospital has a capacity of 100 beds, with subsequent phases to increase the total number of beds to 312. A 10,000 square-metre shelter centre with 384 beds will be attached to the hospital. Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry predicts 2.5 per cent economic growth next year. “We feel that by next year the Covid-19 pandemic will be over, and this means we could actually have some growth,” said head of economic research at the chamber, Ahmed al-Hooti, according to local media.
  • 1 October: Muscat International airport reopens for incoming and outbound flights for citizens and residents. 
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 130,965
  • Recoveries: 127,868
  • Deaths: 229

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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."
  • 14 October: Quarantine requirements for all nationals, residents and visa holders arriving to Qatar have been extended to 31 December 2020. Hotels for quarantine must be booked through Discover Qatar. Travellers from low-risk countries may be permitted to quarantine at home, while others must fund a hotel quarantine. 
  • 12 October: Sidra Medicine added to list of 32 health centres approved to conduct PCR tests for the novel coronavirus.
  • 5 October: Chairperson of Hamad Medical Corporation's department of laboratory medicine and pathology, Einas al-Kuwari, says automated antigen tests to rapidly provide Covid-19 status are at the experimental phase. She added that the test, which delivers results in 10 minutes, has an accuracy rate of 97 per cent. 
  • 2 October: Mandatory quarantine remains in place until further notice for all passengers arriving in the country, supreme committee dealing with the Covid-19 crisis says. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 19 October: Qatar Development Bank's (QDB) Covid-19 response package, launched as part of the government's programme to support local businesses, has received an additional QR2bn, taking its total value to QR5bn, according to local daily newspaper the Peninsula. QDB's package was launched as part of Doha's QR75bn financial stimulus programme and has been extended until 31 December. Guarantees have been issued to 3,500 companies so far as part of the QDB scheme. In May, the bank told companies operating in the contracting and construction sector to utilise the package. 
  • 12 October: Doha says it is producing 992,000 litres of hand sanitiser each month, adding that it has signed 14 contracts to increase the stock of food and consumer commodities in the country. 
  • 5 October: Msheireb tram, linking all parts of Msheireb Downtown Doha and Qatar Rail through the Central Msheireb metro station, resumes operations with mandatory precautionary measures. 
  • 28 September: Flag carrier Qatar Airways discloses it had received a $2bn advance from the government of Qatar that has been converted into new shares. 
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 562,705
  • Recoveries: 450,891
  • Deaths: 32,320

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 24 October: President Hassan Rouhani says compliance with precautionary measures is essential, adding: "Currently, there is no way to fight this virus other than observing health protocols."
  • 22 October: National Task Force for Fighting Coronavirus calls to cut number of government employees in Tehran's offices by 50 per cent until the end of the month, and imposes an additional week of strict restrictions in 43 critical status cities.
  • 19 October: Rouhani says people in Iran must "trust doctors, specialists and influential people in society" to contend with the coronavirus, adding: "We must assume – even in a pessimistic way – that we will face this disease for another two years, and we must change our lifestyle and accept that the current situation is completely different from the situation before the virus."
  • 17 October: Tehran governor-general, Anoushirvan Mohseni Bandpey, extends last week's closures in the capital by an additional week. The restrictive measures in Tehran ban all forms of public gathering across the province, including Friday prayers. As per the order, gyms, recreational centres, ceremony halls and coffee shops are shut down as well.
  • 14 October: United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) provides 30,000 hand sanitisers, 12,000 sanitising gel units, 30,000 liquid hand soap bottles, 11,988 sanitary pads and 300,000 masks to address the needs of vulnerable children in Iran in 31 cities across six provinces. 
  • 10 October: National Task Force for Fighting Coronavirus approves fines for violators of safety precautions. Rouhani said: "If those infected with the virus appear in the society, they will be fined 200,000 tomans (IRR2m). Any person who appears outdoors without wearing masks will be fined 50,000 tomans (IRR500,000), which must be deposited to the account that will be announced within two weeks." 
  • 7 October: Rouhani says new restrictions are necessary to curb Covid-19 despite the socioeconomic drawbacks of closures. "We know that the temporary closure of some businesses is a problem for the people, but in the current situation we have no choice but to increase restrictions." No new measures were confirmed, but starting 10 October, the government will go door-to-door in Tehran to remind individuals about the use of masks. 
  • 5 October: Health Ministry spokesperson, Sima Sadat Lari, says 26 of Iran’s 31 provinces are high-risk 'red zones', while four other provinces are at the next level, in the orange zone. Masoud Mardani, a member of the National Headquarters for Coronavirus Control, said field hospitals would likely be required if trips are conducted on upcoming national holidays, Tehran Times reported. 
  • 4 October: Civil Aviation Organisation says all flights to and from Iraq have been cancelled until further notice to curb the spread of Covid-19. 
  • 3 October: Rouhani warns that violators of safety precautions or those who hide having Covid-19 will be fined: "Reducing social discipline is making it difficult for us [to curb the spread]. We need to increase supervision and monitoring, and even designate fines for violations."

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". 
  • 17 October: Flag carrier Iran Air to resume flights to Cologne, Germany from 30 October.
  • 14 October: European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (Echo) programme allocates $9.4m to help Iran manage and control the pandemic. Unicef will spend the Echo funding to procure diagnosis and treatment equipment for local government entities, Tehran Times reports.
  • 10 October: Rouhani says $100m has been allocated to purchase Covid-19 testing kits. 
  • 5 September: Schools reopen after seven months of closures. 
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 106,397
  • Recoveries: 98,813
  • Deaths: 6,187

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 21 October: Adviser to the president on health and prevention affairs, Mohamed Awad Tag Eddin, says a second wave of Covid-19 is "highly likely" in Egypt, according to local media reports. Tag Eddin called on citizens to ensure compliance with precautionary measures and guard against confusion "between the flu and the virus, as the two share many symptoms".  
  • 19 October: Local media reports Health Minister Hala Zayed has received the second shot of Chinese pharmaceuticals company Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine. Zayed said Egypt has a network of 600 hospitals ready to deal with a second wave of the pandemic and that additional fever and pulmonology hospitals are being developed to support 45 such recently developed facilities.
  • 14 October: Zayed calls on the World Health Organisation (WHO) to provide vaccines for free in low-income countries. She added that Egypt will prioritise frontline healthcare workers, senior citizens, chronically ill individuals, pregnant women and individuals with autoimmune diseases once a vaccine is available. 
  • 5 October: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi directs local medical sector to remain alert and prepared to deal with the possibility of a new wave of Covid-19 ahead of the new academic year's commencement. Advisor to the Egyptian President for Health Affairs, Muhammad Awad Tajuddin, warns against lax behaviour as winter approaches. 
  • 4 October: Ministry of Education issues guidelines for schools. Measures stipulate that a class will be closed for 28 days if more than one student tests positive for the coronavirus in a period of two weeks. A school will be closed for 28 days if two or more classes in the school are closed. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 19 October: Egyptian Doctors Syndicate is said to have disbursed £E71m to support more than 3,586 doctors infected by Covid-19 since February. Another £E5m has been distributed to support the families of doctors who passed away due to the illness. Families of 58 doctors killed by the virus have also received £E2.9m from the Medical Professions Union, and 47 families have received £E2.35m from a separate support fund for doctors. 
  • 17 October: Ministry of Education says it has an alternative plan to continue classes in case a second wave of Covid-19 disrupts in-class learning. Deputy Minister of Education, Reda Hegazy, says students will be provided access to electronic learning platforms should the need arise. 
  • 6 October: Hossam al-Masry, medical advisor to Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly, says Egypt has stockpiles of medication to aid with Covid-19 recovery and citizens do not need to hoard these drugs fearing shortages. In September, the Egyptian Drug Authority secured 2.5 million packages of the Azithromycin antibiotic, as well as 233,000 bottles of the drug, the cabinet said. 
  • 4 October: Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, says two Egyptian Covid-19 vaccines are ready for first-phase trials, adding that the country has worked on developing four vaccines since the start of the pandemic.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 449,153
  • Recoveries: 378,209
  • Deaths: 10,568

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: 

  • 22 October: White Paper for Economic Reforms prepared by the Crisis Cell for Financial and Fiscal Reform is formally approved by Baghdad. Covid-19 is listed as among the factors causing Iraq's economic decline, and the white paper includes proposals to boost the economy over the medium and long term.
  • 4 October: Iraqi officials hold meeting with British/Swedish pharmaceutical producer AstraZeneca to procure adequate doses of the Covid-19 vaccine that the company is developing. 
  • 1 October: Plans for healthcare infrastructure to be expanded. "The current number of coronavirus testing laboratories in the country is 40, and the ministry is planning to establish 20 more labs during the current month," director of the Health Ministry's laboratories, Duraid Qasim Jasim, said.
  • 27 September: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi pledges to meet the demands of doctors who went on strike seeking improvements to their working conditions. A statement by the prime minister's media office said that Al-Kadhimi received representatives of the group of striking doctors and vowed to prioritise their "legitimate demands", which stem from corruption and mismanagement during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 50,750
  • Recoveries: 7,508
  • Deaths: 540

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 22 October: Defence orders issued to curb the spread, including a total curfew on Fridays, when midday prayers will be permitted for one hour. On weekdays, people mobility will be prohibited from 11pm until 6am, while commercial establishments will be closed from 10pm until 6am. Fines for individual offense repeaters have been set at JD500, and for entities that violate repeatedly, up to JD2,000 with 14 days of closure. 
  • 21 October: Minister of Health, Nazir Obeidat, says an ad-hoc committee will be formed to assess Jordan's epidemiological situation and future Covid-19 scenarios. The committee, comprising eight members, will be headed by former health minister Sa'ad Kharabsheh.
  • 20 October: Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh says a comprehensive curfew will be imposed on Fridays until 31 December 2020. Partial nighttime curfew hours will be extended and businesses will be allowed to operate until 10pm. Public movement will be permitted from 6am until 11pm, and schools, universities, cultural centres and vocational training institutes will continue with remote learning until the end of the first semester. Defence orders will be issued in the coming days with regard to restaurant operations and the number of people that are allowed to be present during their working hours from 6am until 10pm, at 50 per cent of their capacity, not exceeding six people at one table. Penalties stipulated in previous defence orders will be reactivated.
  • 18 October: Aqaba Health Directorate sets up three mobile caravans to collect swabs from Covid-19 patients' contacts. 
  • 14 October: Governor of Jerash, Firas Abu Qaoud, says the isolation of the town of Marsa'a will continue until Sunday morning as case numbers grow in the country. However, the national government has denied it plans to impose a comprehensive curfew. Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh names Wael Haiajna to run the country's Covid-19 response programme.
  • 13 October: Newly appointed Minister for Media Affairs, Ali al-Ayed, says a comprehensive lockdown in all of the country's governorates will continue on Friday and Saturday. The 48-hour total lockdown will start at 1am on Friday and continue until 1am on Sunday, after which a partial curfew will be in place, lasting until 6am.
  • 11 October: Committee for the Sustainability of Work, Production & Supply Chains extends comprehensive curfew and isolation on Ain Basha district in the Balqa governorate until 15 October.
  • 9 October: Home quarantine will be imposed on Jordanian truck drivers entering the country from Saudi Arabia through Al-Omari border crossing from 11 October. Those arriving from 'green' and 'yellow' listed countries will be isolated at home for seven days, while those arriving from countries on the 'red' list will be isolated for 14 days. 
  • 7 October: The Work, Supply & Production Chains Sustainability Committee to extend the comprehensive curfews in parts of the Batrawi and New Zarqa areas in Zarqa governorate, Eil district in southern Ma'an city, and the Baqa'a camp in the central Balqa governorate until 12 October. 
  • 6 October: Comprehensive curfew to be imposed from midnight on Thursday for a period of 48 hours, and to be repeated in the coming weeks. Armed forces will be deployed in all governorates to ensure compliance. Only epidemiological investigation teams, medical and nursing staff and small numbers of staff maintaining the work of institutions for vital sectors may leave their homes during the curfew, without exception even for permit-holders. In-school learning is suspended and distance learning is to be followed.
  • 5 October: Areas in Amman's Al-Salhini, Al-Moqableen and Umm Nawara, as well as parts of Mafraq and Jerash, will be placed under isolation and a full lockdown for one week, starting 7 October. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 24 October: Land border crossings including the al-Mudawara border crossing, the King Hussein Bridge, and the Sheikh Hussein Bridge (the northern crossing) will reopen for travellers.
  • 23 October: Obeidat says 300 hospital beds have been added across Jordan as part of government efforts to curb Covid-19. 
  • 21 October: Jordan Labour Watch urges government to review its decision to close nurseries and kindergartens, adding that the decision could risk forcing women to leave the labour market. The watchdog instead proposed tighter curbs to cut infection rates and resume employment to incentivise women to continue engaging in the labour market and raising personal incomes.
  • 20 October: Khasawneh says Education Minister Tayseer al-Nuaimi has reached a consensus with a majority of local private schools to lower tuition fees by 15 per cent.
  • 17 October: Obeidat meets directors of public hospitals and urges frequent reviews of Covid-19 treatment guidelines and practices.
  • 8 October: More than 100 Covid-19 testing sites will be opened across the country, Health Ministry Assistant-General for Primary Healthcare, Ghazi Sharkas, said. 
  • 4 October: Reassurances offered about the Jordanian healthcare sector's capacity to combat Covid-19. The price of a PCR test at private laboratories has been reduced to JD35.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 69,906
  • Recoveries: 33,438
  • Deaths: 562

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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 this month. The ministry also underscored the importance of complying with the 1am to 6am curfew and the use of masks.
  • 7 October: Caretaker Minister of Public Health, Hamad Hassan, reviews conditions in Lebanese prisons amid Covid-19 spike. Intensive care unit (ICU) beds will be prepared within 10 days in a government hospital, and capacity will also be expanded in the private sector.
  • 2 October: Lebanon has put 111 villages and towns nationwide on lockdown for a week. Residents must stay home and wear masks if forced to go out, health ministry says. State institutions and places of worship are to close, but health centres and delivery services are exempt, UAE state news agency Wam reports.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 18 October: Member of the Democratic Gathering, MP Bilal Abdallah, says Progressive Socialist Party Chief, Walid Jumblatt, has donated $100,000 to equip a new department to treat Covid-19 patients at the Siblin Governmental hospital.
  • 17 October: Egypt's ambassador to Lebanon, Yasser Alawi, says 500 doses of remdesivir and 50 tonnes of flour provided by the Federation of Egyptian Industries have been provided to Lebanon as part of the second batch of aid from Egypt. 
  • 7 October: Lebanon inks agreement for WHO to fund treatment of 800 Covid-19 patients from the Roumieh jail.
  • 5 October: Caretaker Minister of Public Health, Hamad Hassan, says he has approached the Lebanese central bank's governor for accurate data regarding subsidised medication. Lebanon has reached the peak of its second wave of Covid-19, Hassan said, adding that the illness spiralled out of control after the Port of Beirut blasts on 4 August. 
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 194,461
  • Recoveries: 160,372
  • Deaths: 3,255

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 23 October: Tighter curbs announced for Greater Casablanca, which includes the Casablanca and Mohammadia prefectures and Naouceur and Mediouna provinces, as well as the Berrechid and Benslimane provinces. Measures include the prohibition of all forms of night movement between 9pm and 6am; the closing of community grounds and parks; closing restaurants, cafés, stores and large shopping centres at 8pm; the shutdown of public transport buses and tramways at 9pm; closing local markets at 3pm; and promoting teleworking when possible. Previously announced preventive measures will also remain in force, including the closure of hammams and sports halls, and a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.
  • 19 October: Head of Government, Saad Dine el-Otmani, says some precautionary measures to curb Covid-19 are necessary despite their cost, adding: "The cases of contamination are not stabilising and we still cannot manage to flatten the curve." Separately, efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 in Casablanca have been extended for an additional fortnight.
  • 14 October: Preventive measures announced for Agadir-Ida Ou Tanane, including the closing of restaurants from 11pm and the Souk el-Had shopping complex from 7pm. 
  • 1 October: Government extends precautionary measures imposed in Casablanca on 7 September for another fortnight from 5 October. Curbs imposed include the closing of local markets at 3pm and restaurants at 9pm, and strictly limiting entry to or exit from the city. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 20 October: Ministry of Health 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, Minister of Economy, Finance & Administration Reform, Mohamed Benchaaboun, says. 
  • 14 October: Benchaaboun, says Covid-19 has forced the Moroccan government to review its priorities and weaknesses. He added that the government will launch a healthcare programme on 1 January 2021 to expand compulsory health insurance for 22 million Moroccans in two years. Separately, Benchaaboun said Rabat has allocated 11 per cent of its GDP to revive the economy, of which 7 per cent will be earmarked for state guarantees and the rest for the newly formed Mohammed VI Investment Fund. The fund will not intervene directly in economic sectors but will lean on banks to encourage public-private partnerships (PPPs) in Morocco.
  • 13 October: Tourism resumes in Morocco as group of 160 French tourists arrives at Marrakech-Menara International airport on a Royal Air Maroc flight.
  • 9 October: King Mohammed VI says economic stimulus is the Moroccan government's foremost priority, adding that the establishment of the Mohammed VI Investment Fund will drive support for major PPP projects in the country. More than 20,000 Moroccan businesses have received state-guaranteed loans worth MD26.1bn to date, and King Mohammed VI has asked for MD15bn from state resources to be allocated to the newly formed strategic investment fund. The leader also called for social welfare coverage for all Moroccans, which includes universal compulsory healthcare coverage for an additional 22 million individuals by the end of 2022. 
  • 1 October: Educational institutes in Casablanca will be allowed to reopen on 5 October, marking an exception to the closures that have been extended in the city.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 54,374
  • Recoveries: 29,965
  • Deaths: 790

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 Friday. 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: 

  • 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.
  • 7 October: Aviation authority seeks resumption of flights between Mitiga and Benina airports. 
  • 27 September: Flights between Libya and Tunisia will gradually resume from the beginning of October, the Libyan African Aviation Holding Company (LAAHC) said. LAAHC owns both of Libya’s state air carriers, Libyan Airlines and Afriqiyah Air. Passengers travelling from Libya must show the negative results of a PCR test taken no more than 120 hours before flying.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 48,799
  • Recoveries: 5,032
  • Deaths: 819

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 24 October: The Scientific Committee on Fight against Coronavirus may propose a lockdown on the movement of the elderly (aged 65 and above), said committee member Habib Ghedira. A package of recommendations are being mulled to curb the spike in cases, among which is the lockdown on the elderly. Other recommendations include restrictions on domestic travel and the mandatory compliance with health protocols in private and public spaces. Hospitals, Ghedira added, will reach saturation if cases continue to surge.
  • 21 October: Kasserine health director Abdelghani Chaabani says a mobile military lab may be established to conduct up to 400 tests a day on people with severe Covid-19 systems. Kasserine has reported 482 cases since the start of the pandemic.
  • 20 October: A hall at a sports facility within the Kasserine province will be turned into a 40-bed field hospital fitted out with oxygen units and heating pipes to reduce burden on hospitals, said First Delegate Atef Massi.
  • 19 October: Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi orders all governors to impose a curfew from 20 October. Several of Tunisia's 24 provinces are already under various forms of lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. 
  • 15 October: Governor of Sousse, Raja Trabelsi, extends nightly curfew by 10 days to stem the spread of Covid-19. The curfew will be in force in the entire governorate from 8pm to 5am.
  • 14 October: Flag carrier Tunisair finalises measures to be enforced for passengers travelling from high-risk countries, categorised as the 'red zone' of travellers. Passengers must arrive at the departure airport three hours in advance to commence pre-check-in activities, and must present two printed copies of payment receipts for a seven-day quarantine at a hotel in Tunisia.
  • 10 October: Local disaster response committee in Nabeul approves curfew in Dar Chaabane, Beni Khiar, Korba, Hammamet and Soliman from 8pm to 5am for a period of 15 days starting 11 October. Similar curfew launched in Southern and Northern Gafsa and El-Ksar on 10 October, also for a 15-day period. 
  • 7 October: Curfew approved for Greater Tunis from 9pm to 5am from Monday-Friday and from 7pm to 5am on Saturday-Sunday. The curfew will run until 23 October. A curfew from 8pm to 5am has also been announced for Kef city for 15 days from 7 October. Travel outside Kef is prohinited, Friday prayers are on hold and restaurants and cafes may only operate for take-away services, but schools and social institutions will operate as usual. Separately, the Ministry of Education has created a mobilisation team to conduct daily inspection visits to schools. 
  • 5 October: Sports ministry announces 15-day suspension of youth and sports events, as well as official sports competitions and exhibition games, with the possibility of extension if required. National teams must carry out Covid-19 tests and ensure they are negative so as to continue training. 
  • 3 October: Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi urges compliance with healthcare precautions, adding that normal classes in schools, universities and vocational training institutions will continue. He also announced a ban on all gatherings and public or private demonstrations.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 21 October: Minister of Economy, Finance & Investment Support, Ali Kooli, says economic contraction of 8 per cent will lead Tunisia to a revenue loss of at least TD8bn in 2020. Additional spending incurred this year will lead to a budget deficit of 14 per cent, and Kooli said Tunis will "try to redeem the situation" by reducing the deficit to 7 per cent in 2021. He added that the state plans to repay debt of about TD4.5bn to suppliers following the passage of the supplementary finance bill, adding that it is "crucial to restore the state's credibility" and honour its TD21bn salary receipts this year.
  • 20 October: United States Agency for International Development (Usaid), in partnership with micro-financing institutions Baobab and Advans, will mobilise TD86.6m ($31.5m) to support more than 13,000 Tunisian micro and small enterprises. This funding programme is particularly geared towards female-owned businesses in underserved areas of Tunisia. Baobab and Advans will provide TD78.28m ($28.5m) in working capital loans, while Usaid's Tunisia Jobs arm will allocate TD8m ($3m) in grants. The loans and grants will help micro and small enterprises retain about 17,300 jobs.
  • 19 October: Mechichi says Tunisia's current economic situation remains "very difficult" and may require further resources to be mobilised, in addition to controlling the haemorrhaging of public finances. Separately, he added that donations to the 1818 Coronavirus Fund, as well as international finances to curb Covid-19, have yet to be used "due to bureaucracy and slow administrative procedures, including the preparation of specifications and calls for tenders", state news agency TAP reports. "The government is endeavouring to iron out these difficulties by reinforcing human resources and improving the level of equipment through the injection of additional funds," Mechichi said, announcing the recruitment of 1,300 medics and paramedics, as well as the injection of funds worth about TD100m to the central pharmacy to help it import vaccines and vital medicines.
  • 17 October: Select political parties and national organisations call for requisition of the private health sector (clinics, laboratories and free practice doctors) to back national efforts to combat the coronavirus. Among the signatories who called for enhancing the public health sector to contend with Covid-19 were independents, as well as members of the Workers' Party, the National Democratic Socialist Party, the Popular Current, the Tunisia Forward movement and the General Union of Students of Tunisia, state news agency TAP reported.
  • 13 October: German company Van Laack distributes 10,000 face masks in Bizerte for free. Additionally, the company intends to offer 3,000 medical smocks to the staff of hospitals in the governorate of Bizerte.
  • 12 October: Banque Centrale de Tunisie (BCT) says loans handed out in July 2020 grew 4.3 per cent compared to 6.2 per cent in July last year. Medium-term loans expanded 10.1 per cent year-on-year, but short-term loans continued to decline, noting growth of only 0.7 per cent this year compared to 2.9 per cent last year. Loans to individuals grew by 3.4 per cent in July 2020 compared to 2.6 per cent in July 2019.
  • 5 October: Minister of Health, Faouzi Mehdi, says 3,000 healthcare staff will be recruited to support public hospitals. The ministry plans to establish 12 Covid-19 units with 20 beds each, in addition to field hospitals. Ventilator-equipped bed numbers are to be increased three-fold by the end of October, to 1,200, with ventilator beds to increase from 150 to 700 in the private sector during the period. The number of ICU beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients will increase from 95 to 220 in the public sector and 100 to 200 in the private sector. Eight isolation centres, each with the capacity for 5,000 people, will open in seven governorates. If additional centres are required in a governorate, then the accommodation costs will be borne by the government.  
  • 3 October: Mechichi says Tunisia cannot financially afford another lockdown: "The lockdown scenario is not conceivable." He added that by the end of October, the number of ventilator-equipped beds in the country will increase from 400 to 1,200 in the public health sector and from 150 to 700 in the private sector.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 55,880
  • Recoveries: 38,932
  • Deaths: 1,907

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 21 October: Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad calls on parents to comply with precautions as more than 5 million students resume primary schooling. 
  • 18 October: Minister of Health, Population & Hospital Reform, Abderrahmane Benbouzid, rules out return to lockdown in the near term and says fears about a second wave in Algeria are unfounded. However, he also asserted the need for compliance with precautions to continue the "downward trend and satisfactory figures" reported in recent weeks.
  • 5 October:  Institut Pasteur d'Algerie issues tenders to acquire PCR tests and medical equipment that can carry out 2,000 screening tests a day. 
  • 3 October: Minister of Health, Population & Hospital Reform, Abderrahmane Benbouzid, says Algerian airspace will not open until a sovereign decision is made after reviewing the epidemiological situation both within and outside the country. 
  • 2 October: Benbouzid says, "Algeria has won the battle," adding: "Vigilance is still required to avoid a second wave.”

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 19 October: Ministry of Energy 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.
  • 4 October: Schools and universities will reopen on 21 October and 22 November, respectively. Intermediate and secondary school classes are to resume on 4 November. Separately, preliminary draft of the 2021 Finance Law is presented to the Council of Ministers in a meeting chaired by Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 2,060
  • Recoveries: 1,360
  • Deaths: 599

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 to 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: 

  • 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 Minister of Local Administration, Abdul Raqib Fatah, appeal for international aid. “We need personal protective equipment (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 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 5,359
  • Recoveries: 1,722
  • Deaths: 267

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 21 October: Ministry of Health 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: Ministry of Interior 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 World Health Organisation. The shipment, which arrived at Damascus International airport, includes personal protection needs 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. Minister of Finance, 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. 
  • 1 October: Flights out of Damascus International airport resume after six months of closures. Syrian Airlines will fly from Damascus International airport to regional locations, including Cairo and Beirut, and resume a weekly flight to Khartoum, Sudan. It will also schedule ad-hoc flights to Kuwait.
As of 09.30 GST, 25 October 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during September 2020.

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