Factsheet: Covid-19 in the Mena region

25 March 2020
More than 28,759 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed so far

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt daily life as the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reaches 28,759 on 25 March. 

Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, accounts for 86 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region, while the six GCC states, with 2,208 cases, make up 7.6 per cent of the region’s total confirmed cases. 

Saudi Arabia announced on 24 March that its total number of Covid-19 cases had grown to 767, while the UAE reported 50 new cases on the day, taking its tally to 248. Forty-five of the UAE’s 248 patients have recovered to date. 

In the wider Middle East region, war-torn Syria reported its first case of Covid-19 on 22 March. Damascus halted scientific, cultural, social and sporting events on 20 March, and plans were also implemented for public institutions to be closed or staffed at 40 per cent of normal levels.

Meanwhile, Egypt is the north African region’s worst-hit country, with 402 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 80 recoveries and 20 deaths.

On 22 March, President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi said the country’s £E100bn stimulus package revealed earlier this month includes £E50bn in support for the tourism, including funding to hotels continue operations. 

Covid-19 in the Mena region – latest update:

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 767
  • Recoveries: 28
  • Deaths: 1

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 15 March: Non-essential spaces, including malls and restaurants, closed
  • 20 March: Interior Ministry suspends domestic flights, trains, buses and taxis
  • 22 March: Three-week curfew ordered by King Salman
  • 25 March: Riyadh says King Salman to chair extraordinary virtual summit of G20 leaders on 26 March to advance response to Covid-19

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 14 March: Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (Sama) pledges SAR50bn package for private sector growth
  • 20 MarchFinance Ministry commits SAR70bn for economic growth
  • 22 March: Expat levy waived for work permits expiring on 20 March-30 June, and tax payments deferred
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 248
  • Recoveries: 45
  • Deaths: 2

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 March: Visa issuance temporarily suspended
  • 22 March: Passenger flights grounded for two weeks from 25 March
  • 22 March: Interior Ministry urges people to stay at home
  • 21-23 March: Malls, food markets and restaurants closed
  • 24 March: Reports say Skype for Business and Google Hangouts legalised to help people work remotely
  • 24 March: Dubai International airport says passenger flights to and from the UAE – including inbound, outbound and transit – will now be suspended from 11:59pm on 24 March instead of 26 March, as was previously planned
  • 24 March: Dubai Chamber urges private sector to implement remote working, and Dubai Crown Prince invites volunteers to support city-wide efforts during Covid-19

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 392
  • Recoveries: 177
  • Deaths: 3

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 25 February: Private and public schools, universities and nurseries suspended
  • 13 March: F1 Grand Prix Bahrain called off
  • 22 March: National taskforce bans public gatherings of more than five individuals
  • 22 March: Retail stores closed from 26 March to 9 April except to make deliveries 
  • 22 March: Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre converted to Covid-19 testing facility
  • 23 March: Friday and communal prayers at all mosques and prayer areas indefinitely suspended
  • 24 March: Forex firms ordered to sterilise banknotes

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 17 March: Manama announces $11.4bn stimulus package
  • 18 March: Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry calls to find import alternatives
  • 22 March: Commerce ministry launches virtual trading after Bahrain Bourse closes floor to public
  • 23 March: Bahrain Association of Banks tells local banks to expedite stimulus package decisions
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 191
  • Recoveries: 39
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 11 March: Public holiday announced to curb coronavirus' spread
  • 13 March: All passenger and non-cargo flights grounded indefinitely
  • 13 March: Mosques, public parks and beaches closed, and mass transportation halted
  • 19 March: School and university closures extended till 4 August
  • 20 March: Partial daily curfew imposed and public holiday extended for two weeks after 26 March 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 12 March: Central bank says it is ready to provide cash to commercial banks if required
  • 12 March: Kuwait suspends fees on point of sales devices and ATM withdrawals, increases limit for contactless payments to KD25 from KD10 and pledges to provide “financial and moral compensation” to banking sector employees during the public holiday
  • 17 March: KD500m authorised for ministries and state entities 
  • 18 March: Authorities initiate action against individuals "spreading rumours" about Covid-19 in Kuwait
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 84
  • Recoveries: 17
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 March: Teleconferencing programmes legalised to encourage remote work, and land allotments postponed by government
  • 19 March: Oman advises tourists to depart and halts all public transportation
  • 22 March: Public gatherings banned, staff at government office reduced and foreign exchange bureaus closed in the sultanate
  • 22 March: Newspaper distribution banned temporarily
  • 24 March: All international flights to be suspended from 29 March 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 18 March: Central bank launches OMR8bn stimulus package to buoy economy
  • 19 March: Muscat approves five per cent budget cuts in ministries and state entities
  • 19 March: Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council approves financial allocations for food reserves and for Al Raffd Fund to support SME lending
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 526
  • Recoveries: 41
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 9 March: Schools and universities closed in Qatar 
  • 15 March: Public transport suspended by government
  • 17 March: Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs closes mosques and prayer facilities 
  • 18 March: Incoming passenger flights to Doha suspended for non-Qataris for renewable two weeks
  • 21 March: Public parks and beaches closed to curb spread of Covid-19

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 15 March: Doha commits QR75bn to private sector incentives. The government says state funds will be told to increase their investment in the local bourse by QR10bn and the central bank will provide additional liquidity to banks. Commercial banks will be encouraged to provide a six-month grace period on loan payments and private sector obligations.
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 24,811
  • Recoveries: 8,913
  • Deaths: 1,934

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 22 February: Concerts and cultural events were cancelled, and schools, universities and sporting events suspended until April
  • 2 March: Government mobilises volunteers and carries out street disinfection works
  • 5 March: Domestic travel discouraged and Health Minister urges population to avoid banknotes
  • 9-17 March: At least 85,000 prisoners released to limit spread of Covid-19 within jails
  • 13 March: Revolutionary Guards planned to clear streets, shops and public places around the country as Iranian Chamber of Commerce in northern China sends masks and sanitary items to Iran
  • 20 March: Shopping centres, bazaars and all religious sites closed
  • 24 March: Rouhani says government offices to be run in shifts with one-third of workforce at a time until 3 April, announces extension of prisoner furlough until 1 April and asks TV companies to promote delivery companies for free. Government calls to shut workplaces and cancel gatherings until 3 April and postpone weddings and funerals

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 12 March: Iran requests $5bn in emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund for the first time since 1962
  • 13 March: Economy Ministry appeals to World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Opec Fund for International Development for financial aid and non-cash support
  • 14 March: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urges unnamed global leaders to help lift US sanctions
  • 22 March: Plan and Budget Organisation provides $845m to Health Ministry for prevention efforts
  • 24 March: Hossein Mir Shojaian Hosseini, Iranian representative to World Bank, slams the authority for not inviting the republic to a Mena-focused meeting on Covid-19 containment
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 402
  • Recoveries: 80
  • Deaths: 20

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 26 January:  Association of Egyptian Travel Agencies bans flights from and to China booked by local tourism offices
  • 7 March: Nile River cruise ship MS River Anuket placed in quarantine at dock in Luxor
  • 9 March: Large gatherings banned as number of cases spikes from 3 on 5 March to 55 on 8 March
  • 16 March: Air travel suspension from 19 March confirmed after case numbers soar from 59 on 9 March to 94 on 13 March
  • 19 March: Cairo decides to close restaurants, cafes, nightclubs and public places from 7pm to 6am until 31 March as total cases reach 256
  • 20 March: Decision announced to close mosques and churches for two weeks as confirmed case numbers pass 294
  • 21 March: Supreme Council of Antiquities says to close and sterilise archaeological sites in Luxor on 23-31 March
  • 24 March: Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announces daily curfew between 7pm and 6am for 15 days from 25 March. Shops will be closed between 5pm and 6am every day, and on Fridays and Saturdays. Restaurants, cafes, and entertainment venues, as well as non-healthcare civil services departments to also be closed as confirmed cases reach 366
  • 24 March: Air travel suspension extended for two weeks as Egypt says “all options on table” to avoid entering third stage of pandemic’s spread

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 14 March: President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi announces EGP100bn allocation to deal with Covid-19
  • 17 March: Trade and Industry Minister Neveen Gamea bans export of face masks, anti-infective materials and manufacturing alcohol to protect local market 
  • 19 March: Planning Minister mulls EGP30bn package to support local industry as National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr commit EGP3bn to buoy coronavirus-hit Egyptian Exchange
  • 20 March: National Communications Regulatory Authority and mobile operators launch incentives to encourage social distancing
  • 22 March: Electricity and natural gas prices for the industrial sector reduced by $0.0064 and $4.5 respectively, and EGP1bn to be granted to exporters as part of their dues in March-April
  • 22 March: El-Sisi says EGP100bn package includes EGP50bn for tourism and to help hotels continue operations, EGP20bn for the national bourse and EGP27.6bn in direct disbursements for 10 million citizens
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 316
  • Recoveries: 75
  • Deaths: 27

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 February: Border with Iran, the regional hotspot of Covid-19, closed amid criticism that the move was long-delayed
  • 27 February: Schools, universities and cinemas in Baghdad closed, and large public gatherings, including those of religious nature, banned across the country
  • 7 March: Non-citizen travellers from France and Spain, except foreign diplomats, were banned from entering Iraq, and Baghdad issued a decree banning overland trade with Kuwait and Iran on 8-15 March  
  • 10 March: State-run Basra Oil Company reduces and amends staff shifts, and curbs employee travel, to protect oil output against Covid-19 
  • 12 March: One day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Health Minister Jaafar Allawi says Iraq needs $150m per month to purchase equipment and materials to fight the virus, with the Finance Ministry accepting donations from banks, government and private institutions.
  • 13 March: Three-day curfew announced in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah
  • 14-15 March: Wasit governorate locked down and three-day curfew imposed in Karbala as national flights suspended from Baghdad airport from 17-24 March
  • 18 March: Schools and universities in Baghdad closed for 10 days

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 25 February: Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals backs factory producing 30,000 face masks per day for sale to citizens at discounted prices
  • 14 March: Kurdistan Regional Government’s spokesperson Mohammed Khoshnaw reportedly says “significant medical support” had yet to be provided to Iraq, adding that international support will be needed if cases increase
  • 23 March: President Barham Salih urges people to stay home to reduce burden on vulnerable healthcare infrastructure
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 154
  • Recoveries: 1
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 27 February: Travellers from China, South Korea and Iran temporarily banned from entering Jordan
  • 2 March: Jordan’s first Covid-19 case was announced, and the central government followed up by encouraging self-isolation among citizens
  • 14 March: Prime Minister Omar Razzaz says flights to be grounded from 17 March, and schools, universities, tourist sites, sports events and cinemas to be suspended for at least two weeks 
  • 18 March: Jordanian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Majd Shawaika says 1,900 people who came into the country are being quarantined in Dead Sea resorts and another 3,000 are placed in resorts and hotels in Amman
  • 20 March: Jordan signals start of indefinite curfew at 7am by air-raid sirens sounding across capital city Amman after the decision to impose the curfew – which covers all businesses, including supermarkets and pharmacies – was announced at 4pm the previous day
  • 22 March: Deliveries of cooking gas and water are permitted by the government 
  • 24 March: Government starts trial runs of home deliveries for medicines, fuel and foodstuff to the country’s population of 10 million 
  • 24 March: Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Hala Zawati says cooking gas distribution agencies and vehicles are exempted from curfew as demand for gas cylinders grew amid unusually cold weather conditions

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 26 February: Amman Chamber of Commerce ramps up trade precautionary measures and calls to find alternative markets as Chinese output declines
  • 15 March: Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) cuts compulsory reserves for commercial banks to 5 per cent from 7 per cent, adding more than JD500m ($705m) of extra liquidity in the market
  • 15 March: CBJ governor Zaid Fariz tells Reuters commercial banks have been asked to delay payments of loan instalments by companies and to allow the rescheduling of retail loans without penalties to support private sector and individual borrowers
  • 16 March: CBJ reduces main policy rate to 2.5 per cent from 3.5 per cent
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 318
  • Recoveries: 8
  • Deaths: 4

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 28 February: Education Minister Tarek al-Majzoub announces closure of all educational institutions from 29 February to 8 March
  • 6 March: School and university closures extended till 14 March, and gyms, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs closed
  • 9 March: Lebanese parliament and ministry offices closed for one week
  • 11-12 March: Restaurants and malls closed in Lebanon
  • 15 March: President Michel Aoun declares state of medical emergency as country issues decree to close borders with Syria for the first time in about 40 years. 
  • 15 March: Beirut International airport closed and 15-day lockdown announced, excluding bakeries, pharmacies, food stores, banks and health institutions. Churches cancel Sunday prayers and Islamic authorities suspend Friday prayers for the next two weeks
  • 21 March: Prime Minister Hassan Diab reportedly deploys “the army, Internal Security, General Security and State Security” bodies to enforce social distancing rules  

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 22 February: Economy minister Raoul Neama bans export of devices, equipment, or medical personal protective equipment until further notice
  • 26 February: Head of Lebanese parliament’s health committee, Assem Araji, says WHO supported establishment of Rafic Hariri University Hospital’s quarantine centre and will help set up similar units in Beirut
  • 20 March: Finance minister Ghazi Wazni reportedly says Beirut is studying financial restructuring cases to salvage its crisis hit banks, weeks after Lebanon defaulted on a foreign debt payment for the first time on 9 March
  • 20 March: Select commercial banks cut access to dollars for depositors, with some customers compelled to withdraw Lebanese pounds “at a pegged rate roughly 40 per cent weaker than on the parallel market, effectively slashing their dollar savings,” Reuters reports
  • 23 March: Lebanon says it will stop paying dollar-denominated eurobonds “to protect the reserve from foreign currencies […] and in view of the increasing pressure to access foreign currencies”
  • 24 March: Association of Banks announces decision to provide $6m for medical equipment
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 170
  • Recoveries: 6
  • Deaths: 5

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 13 March: Government suspends passenger flights and ferry crossings to Spain, France and Algeria and temporarily closes schools after first case emerged on 2 March
  • 14 March: Flight suspensions extended to 25 other countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Oman and the UAE
  • 15 March: All international flights suspended
  • 16 March: Interior Ministry closes restaurants, cinemas, sports halls and other entertainment venues
  • 19 March: State of medical emergency declared for 20 March to 20 April, with banks, fuel stations and other critical businesses exempted from the lockdown 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 10 March: Morocco’s economic growth expected to be revised downwards to near 2 per cent for 2020 from an initial forecast of 3.5 per cent due to drought slashing agricultural output and fewer tourists due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ahmed Lahlimi, head of Morocco’s planning agency (HCP), tells Reuters
  • 16 March: Moroccan King Mohammed VI orders establishment of MD10bn fund to rehabilitate the health sector and support vulnerable economic sectors impacted by Covid-19, such as tourism
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1
  • Recoveries: 0
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 14 March: Tripoli government reportedly closes schools for two weeks; suspends all public gatherings and events and shuts restaurants, cafés and mosques; and announces closure of Libya’s land, sea and air borders for three weeks from 16 March
  • 22 March: Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya declares country-wide curfew (6pm to 6am) for all non-vital sectors as health ministry announces plan to build a quarantine centre at Mitiga airport 
  • 24 March: UN-backed Tripoli government announces first confirmed Covid-19 case in the country 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 3 March: Export subsidy adviser at economy ministry says Chinese imports to Libya will be reduced as Covid-19 spreads (source: Libya Observer)
  • 14 March: Al-Sarraj government in Tripoli declares state of medical emergency and allots LYD500m for anti-coronavirus measures
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 114
  • Recoveries: 1
  • Deaths: 4

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 4 March: Health Minister Abdelatif el-Mekki says Tunisia to ferry transport services and allocates separate air terminal for flights from northern Italy after confirming first Covid-19 case on 2 March 
  • 13 March: Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh says government to suspend prayers in mosques, close cafés at 4pm every day, and ban all cultural, sports and economic gatherings after national maritime borders were closed 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 15 March: Ministry of Finance asks citizens for donations to help tackle coronavirus
  • 17 March: Tunisian central bank cuts its key interest rate by 100 basis points and government reduces growth forecast for 2020 from 2.7 per cent to 1 per cent
  • 22 March: Fakhfakh unveils TND2.5bn package to delay tax debts, postpone taxes on small- and medium-sized businesses, delay repayment of low-income employee loans and provide financial assistance to poor families
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 264
  • Recoveries: 65
  • Deaths: 19

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 March: Government issues a ban on spectators at sports events, and on political, social and cultural gatherings
  • 12 March: President Abdelmadjid Tebboune orders schools and universities to close 
  • 15 March: Algeria’s state carrier Air Algerie to suspend all flights to and from France from 17 March
  • 16 March: Algeria to suspend all air and sea travel with Europe and Africa, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad says 
  • 20 March: Anti-government protests called off for the first time in a year  
  • 20 March: Government to suspend public transport, close cafes and restaurants, tell half its state employees to stay home and order security forces to tighten the bar on public gatherings, Reuters reports
  • 23 March: Presidency says Algeria will impose a curfew in the capital Algiers from 7pm-7am and a full lockdown in the town of Blida, which has Algeria’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, for 10 days from 24 March

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 22 March: Government allocates DZD12.3bn to import pharmaceutical products and equipment 
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 0
  • Recoveries: 0
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 19 February: Yemen says its citizens studying in China were evacuated by the UAE and are being quarantined 
  • 14 March: Yemeni Cabinet cancels flights to and from the country’s airports for two weeks, and orders school closures for one week 
  • 17 March: Sports events suspended and judiciary suspends activity in the courts
  • 23 March: Saudi Arabia airlifts critical WHO to Yemen, including personal protective items for health workers, and trauma medication and supplies as Yemeni government reportedly suspends schools and universities until 30 May
  • 24 March: WHO’s representative in Yemen Altaf Musani tells Arab News the organisation is “scaling up preparedness and response efforts in the event a case is confirmed” as 500 Covid-19 testing kits are delivered to Sanaa and Aden

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 23 March: Yemeni planning minister Najib al-Aweg says the World Bank and the International Finance Cooperation have allocated $26.7m to help Yemen tackle Covid-19
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1
  • Recoveries: 0
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 March: Damascus says scientific, cultural, social and sporting events will be halted, and public institutions will be closed or staffed at 40 per cent of normal levels and operate during reduced hours
  • 21 March: Education Minister Imad al-Azab says schools to be closed until 2 April, and government delays 13 April parliamentary elections to 20 May as Friday prayers at mosques are suspended till 4 April
  • 22 March: Public transport banned after closure of parks and restaurants, government plans to deliver bread to homes after closing bakeries and President Bashar al-Assad issues prisoner amnesty. Damascus International airport closed to commercial traffic and newspapers cease print editions
As of 11.30 GST, 25 March 2020

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