Covid-19 cases cross 6 million-mark in Mena

15 March 2021
Jordan's health situation has worsened over the past week as Mena vaccine investments continue

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 6,079,873 on 15 March, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for about 24 per cent (1,468,901) of all regional cases, and Iran’s 1,754,933 confirmed infections make up 29 per cent of the regional 6 million infections.

Since 8 March, 228,329 new Covid-19 cases have been detected in 17 Mena countries tracked by MEED.

Case growth has been driven by countries such as Jordan, where total infections grew from 427,717 on 8 March to 477,053 on 15 March.

The healthcare situation has worsened in Jordan over the past week, with Health Minister Nazir Obeidat resigning after at least seven Covid-19 patients died when a hospital’s oxygen supply failed on 13 March.

King Abdullah is understood to have visited the hospital as protests broke out after news emerged of the patients’ deaths at Al-Hussein Salt New hospital, northwest of Amman. 

Reports suggest the state hospital was out of oxygen for between one and two hours, and that medical staff were also in short supply at the facility. Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh reportedly said he had accepted Obeidat's resignation and that the hospital’s director had been fired. The head of health services for Balqaa province is also understood to have been suspended pending a judicial investigation.

Covid-19 management challenges are also expected to grow in Iran as the country braces for the ‘fourth wave’ of the coronavirus.

The observance of health protocols in Iran has reached its lowest level in the past four months, Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for the Health & Medical Education Ministry, reportedly said, ahead of the upcoming Iranian new year holiday (Nowruz) on 20 March. 

“We hope that all people observe the hygiene principles, and avoid unnecessary travels and gatherings to prevent another wave of this disease in the country.”

On 11 March, Iran received a shipment of 150,000 doses of the Indian-made Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin. The shipment arrived at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport, deputy customs chief Mehrdad Jamal Arvanaghi told ISNA news agency.

Iran is expected to receive another 375,000 doses from India this week.

Vaccination efforts

Other countries in the GCC and wider Mena region are also continuing to invest in inoculation campaigns to manage the number of new coronavirus cases.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry said on 14 March that more than 2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country to date. The kingdom also denied reports claiming it had temporarily suspended the use of the UK's Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which a ministry spokesperson said was safe to use.

Last week, Oman’s Health Minister Ahmed bin Muhammad al-Saeedi also reiterated the safety of vaccines in use in Oman, adding that the first batch of 200,000 units of the US’ Johnson & Johnson vaccine is scheduled to arrive in the sultanate by the end of June or early July.

In Morocco, the Scientific Advisory Committee last week authorised Johnson & Johnson’s and Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccines for use in the country. Rabat has already secured doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and China’s Sinopharm vaccines.

Over the past week, Tunisia has also received its first major delivery of vaccine doses, almost a month later than expected. Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi is understood to have been present for the arrival of the 30,000 Sputnik-V doses in Tunis.

Tunisia has been expecting more than 93,000 doses of the US/German Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford jabs since February, but their delivery was delayed under the UN-led Covax scheme. The country expects to receive additional doses of Russian and Chinese vaccines in the months ahead.

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