Covid-19 cases cross 3.1 million-mark in Mena

15 November 2020
Regional countries excluding the GCC and Iran comprise 44.6 per cent of all infections to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 3,116,202 on 15 November, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 31.4 per cent (977,961) of all regional cases, while Iran alone comprises 24.1 per cent (749,525) of the 3.1 million cases.

To date, Iran has confirmed 749,525 cases of Covid-19, with 552,747 recoveries and 41,034 deaths.

On 14 November, President Hassan Rouhani said a plan has been prepared to intensify restrictions from 21 November.

He added: "The goal of the intensification of these restrictions is for the people to fully understand that this is a state of emergency and everyone must help to get us out of this situation with the least harm."

Wider Mena nations excluding Iran have 1,388,716 Covid-19 cases, comprising 44.6 per cent of all Mena infections.

Among these are Jordan's 141,305 infections, with 9,879 recoveries and 1,704 deaths.

Director of Ma'an Health Affairs, Amjad Abu Darwish, said yesterday that 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 designated for the intensive care unit.

The Ministry of Health will provide all services and medical equipment for the new facility.

Covid-19 in the Mena region:

(15 November 2020)

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 352,950
  • Recoveries: 339,947
  • Deaths: 5,641

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 2 November: Health ministry warns of second wave of Covid-19. Hani Joukhadar, the ministry’s undersecretary for public health, 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: 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. 

 Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 27 October: Cabinet approves plan to allocated SR500,000 ($133,340) for families of health workers who 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: Ministry of Hajj & Umrah 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 PCR examination certificate with a negative result received within 72 hours before the time of departure to the kingdom. Pilgrims must also have prior reservation to perform Umrah and prayers in the Grand Mosque and to visit other holy sites.
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 149,135
  • Recoveries: 142,561
  • Deaths: 528

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 4 November: Abu Dhabi Crisis, Emergencies and 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 emirate from 8 November and stay for four or more consecutive days will be required to take a PCR test on the fourth day of entry. 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 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 and Technology says a team of researchers at its Aerospace Research and Innovation Centre is developing a reusable 3D-printed mask as a potential replacement for standard N95 masks that are in short supply following the Covid-19 pandemic. A prototype has already been printed and once completed, an assessment will be performed before it gets qualified and approved.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 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 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 and Systems Biology have implemented a three-step testing approach that promises to significantly and cost-effectively improve testing accuracy for the 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 and 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: Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, chairs the first meeting of the National Covid19 Crisis Recovery Management and 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 and 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 on the same table, stressing that all participants must adhere to the precautionary measures adopted by the country, such as wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 84,523
  • Recoveries: 82,300
  • Deaths: 333

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 Ministry of Health suspends classes at the 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: Manaf al-Qahtani, infectious diseases consultant and microbiologist at the BDF Hospital, 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 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 136,341
  • Recoveries: 126,902
  • Deaths: 835

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, front-liners and providers of basic services as major categories to be vaccinated against Covid-19 once the country takes delivers of a first shipment of vaccines.
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 119,442
  • Recoveries: 110,050
  • Deaths: 1,326

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 12 November: Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saeedi, Minister of Health, says the reduction in case numbers should not be taken as an excuse to relax abidance by 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: Ministry of Labour says expatriate workers wishing to leave Oman and return to their 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 licenses for practicing professions by expatriate workers, provided they leave the sultanate between 15 November and 31 December 2020. This comes in implementation of the decisions of the Supreme Committee tasked with tackling developments resulting from coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the labour ministry said.
  • 1 November: Ministry of Finance announces the Fiscal Balance Plan 2020-2024 in response to the slump in oil prices and Covid-19.  
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 135,570
  • Recoveries: 132,577
  • Deaths: 234

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."

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 11 November: Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs to resume process of issuing labour recruitment from 15 November after a temporaru 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 Bionetech'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 Bionrech 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 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 749,525
  • Recoveries: 552,747
  • Deaths: 41,034

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 14 November: President Hassan Rouhani says a plan has been prepared to intensify restrictions from 21 November, adding: "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 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 110,547
  • Recoveries: 100,946
  • Deaths: 6,442

Actions to slow the spread 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: 

  • 10 November: Ministry of Health and Population 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 the Al-Sharqiah governorate. Seoul provided $200,000 cash to fund emergency health response activities in Egypt this May, and followed it with $500,000-worth of medical supplies such as test kits and face masks in August. Separately, Minister of Health and Population, 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 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 516,915
  • Recoveries: 444,226
  • Deaths: 11,623

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 and 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 and Immunisation (Gavi).
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 141,305
  • Recoveries: 9,879
  • Deaths: 1,704

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 14 November: Acting Minister of Interior, Bassam Talhouni, says holding gatherings or celebrating events in all their forms won't be allowed in exploitation of the end of the four-day blanket lockdown and return to the partial curfew. The Acting Minister of Interior made his remarks following the issuance of Defense 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 JD3000. 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 are designated for the intensive care unit. The Ministry of Health will provide all services and medical equipment to the new facility.
  • 11 November: Minister of Interior Taqfiq Halalmeh instructs administrative and local governors to activate Defense Order No. 20 which bans gatherings and obligates "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 defense 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 kingdom. "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 until 10pm, Prime Minister Bisher 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: 

  • 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 specialized in building field hospitals, under the supervision of the Audit Bureau and the Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission, to develop three field hospitals in the country's north, central and south regions.
  • 6 November: Royal Jordanian Airlines (RJ) announces the cancellation of scheduled flights resulted in tickets refunds of around JD35.4m due to the lockdown that was imposed since March. 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 JD500m Finance Facilitation Programme would help SMEs obtain affordable funding to cope with the negative effects of Covid-19 and stem potential job losses, the CBJ said.
  • 3 November: Ministry of Health 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 Ministry of Health, 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 European Union (EU) has committed $50m to support the World Health Organisation's (WHO) efforts to strengthen primary health care services under the Jordan Health Programme for Syrian Refugees and 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 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 104,267
  • Recoveries: 58,538
  • Deaths: 806

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 November: Supreme Defense 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 don’t 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 which do not comply with the procedure."
  • 7 November: Diab says a detailed study has been requested from caretaker Minister of Public Health, 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 this month. The ministry also underscored the importance of complying with the 1am to 6am curfew and the use of masks.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 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, and the second with Pfizer Company 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. 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 Ministry of Public Health 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 the Al-Roum and Jeitaoui hospitals. Caretaker health minister Hassan, meanwhile, denied that Lebanon is not spending $50m oof funding available for Covid-19 prevention measures, adding: "This matter is inaccurate. We’re spending the loan money in the right time and place, and within an organised plan."
  • 30 October: Hassan discusses implementation of a twinning programme that was previously launched between 11 government hospitals and five private university hospitals, as part of which the latter will train the medical and nursing intensive care staff of government hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients. Under this programme, the World Health Organisation will provide support to government hospitals by purchasing services with specific contracts within a time limit to provide the existing departments with qualified human cadres, provided that private university hospitals provide training in return.
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 288,211
  • Recoveries: 234,904
  • Deaths: 4,697

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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 ago whilst checking in for their flight. 
  • 9 November: King Mohammed VI announces nation-wide vaccination plan against Covid-19 in the coming weeks. The king said the decision was baed 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: 

  • 11 November: Director of the biotechnology laboratory at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy in Rabat, Azeddine Ibrahimi, says Morocco will receive around 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 in end-2019 with a value of around $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: 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. 
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 72,628
  • Recoveries: 43,259
  • Deaths: 995

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.
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 79,339
  • Recoveries: 53,758
  • Deaths: 2,279

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 November: Travellers to Tunisia must present a negative PCR test result received than 72 hours before boarding. New measures planned to curb the spread also include conducting random rapid screening tests on passengers and to mandatorily take the positive cases to quarantine centres at their expenses. 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: 

  • 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 (ONTT), 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: Prime Minister Hichem 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, 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 intensive care unit 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 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 66,819
  • Recoveries: 44,199
  • Deaths: 2,139

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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 visible 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 to 5am in 29 provinces for 15 days from 10 November. The amendment marks a revision of 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 during 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. 
  • 27 October: Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments calls on citizens "to strictly respect" the preventive measures in place to curb Covid-19 during the upcoming religious holiday.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 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 increasing the number of private laboratories approved to run PCR tests.
  • 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.
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 2,072
  • Recoveries: 1,394
  • Deaths: 605

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: 

  • 11 November: Kuwait Relief Society donates 15 intensive care units to Yemen. The units will be distributed to eight quarantine centres in six governorates, and include sypplies 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 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 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 6,613
  • Recoveries: 2,665
  • Deaths: 341

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 equipment 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. 
As of 10.00 GST, 15 November 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during October 2020.

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