Latest on the region's Covid-19 recovery

16 September 2020

16 September: GCC Covid-19 cases cross 775,000

Saudi Arabia says it has resumed limited international flights

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,789,543 on 16 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 43.5 per cent of all regional cases (775,158), while Iran alone makes up 22.8 per cent (402,029) of all Mena cases.

Wider Mena nations excluding Iran account for 33.7 per cent (597,225) of regional infections.

Iran has the highest number of regional Covid-19 cases, followed by Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 326,930 cases, 305,022 recoveries and 4,338 deaths to date.

Iraq is the next worst-hit country, with 298,702 confirmed cases, 233,346 recoveries and 8,166 deaths.

In the UAE, there have been 80,940 cases, 70,635 recoveries and 401 deaths.

Saudi Arabia resumed limited international flights on 16 September. The General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) said in a statement that non-Saudi nationals are not permitted to enter the kingdom unless they provide a negative Covid-19 test conducted less than 48 hours before arrival. Travellers should also quarantine for three days after their arrival.

Covid-19 in the Mena region:

(14 September 2020)

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 326,930
  • Recoveries: 305,022
  • Deaths: 4,338

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 16 September: Limited international flights resume. The General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) said in a statement that non-Saudi nationals are not permitted to enter the kingdom unless they provide a negative Covid-19 test conducted less than 48 hours before arrival. Travellers should also quarantine for three days after their arrival.
  • 1 September: Future Investment Initiative conference, scheduled for 28-29 October 2020, is deferred until 26-28 January 2021. 
  • 22 August: Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development defines health precautions for public sector employees to return to office work from 30 August. Remote working may be approved for employees if the number working outside the office does not exceed 25 per cent of the total workforce. 
  • 3 August: Pilgrims returning from Hajj must quarantine for 14 days and will be monitored using electronic bands to ensure compliance. 

 Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 7 September: Saudi General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat) extends validity of re-entry visas for expatriates stranded abroad until 30 September. No fee will be charged for the month-long extension, which includes expats that are in the kingdom but whose entry/exit visas expired due to Covid-19-related travel restrictions. 
  • 24 August: Jawazat opens four land border crossings into the kingdom for families. Citizens, their non-Saudi spouses and children, plus drivers and domestic help are allowed in through Al-Khafji, Al-Rakii, the King Fahd Causeway bridge and Al-Bathaa entry points. Non-Saudi companions must show negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results taken within 48 hours of travel. All travellers are required to isolate upon arrival.
  • 18 August: Saudi Food & Drug Authority to host emergency meeting of food regulatory authorities as part of the international conferences to be held during the kingdom's presidency of the G20. The meeting aims to develop ways to drive global cooperation in the field of food legislation to ensure food safety during Covid-19, and address the challenges that countries face in tackling the coronavirus. The meeting will be attended by officials from food safety authorities in several countries, along with the Codex Alimentarius Commission, Food & Agriculture Organisation and the International Food Safety Authorities Network.
  • 15 August: Saudi Arabian schools to resume with distance learning for the first seven weeks, following which the situation will be reviewed. The new academic year is due to begin on 30 August. Exceptions will be made for university and technical school students with practical curriculums who are required to attend courses in person.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 80,940
  • Recoveries: 70,635
  • Deaths: 401

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 8 September: Emergency, Crisis & Disasters Management Team in Sharjah and the Sharjah Private Education Authority extend remote learning for all levels in private schools in the emirate for another two weeks from 13 September. 
  • 7 September: UAE cabinet, chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approves national policy on vaccinations.
  • 1 September: Ministry of Education and the National Emergency Crisis & Disaster Management Authority revert some schools to online learning after suspected Covid-19 cases were detected during tests conducted prior to physical classes.
  • 25 August: Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis & Disasters Committee and Department of Health approve two tests for people wishing to enter the emirate. The new measures will become effective 27 August, and will allow entry into Abu Dhabi within 48 hours from receiving a negative PCR test result or a negative diffractive phase interferometry (DPI) laser test result, provided it is supplemented with a negative PCR test result received within six days prior to entry. The same type of test cannot be taken twice in a row within six days.
  • 19 August: G42 Healthcare, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based Group 42, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Israel's Nanoscent to develop Scent Check, which can detect suspected Covid-19 cases from a sample of exhaled nasal air. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 7 September: Abu Dhabi-based flag carrier Etihad Airways introduces global Covid-19 health insurance. The insurance will cover up to $177,130 of medical costs and $118 of quarantine costs per day for 14 days. All Etihad tickets, regardless of the date of booking, travelling between now and 31 December, will include the Covid-19 insurance, which is valid worldwide for 31 days from the first day of travel. Etihad has partnered with French insurance company Axa for the scheme.
  • 5 September: Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid al-Nuaimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ajman, issues Emiri Decree No. 11 for 2020 for a package to support Ajman’s local transport sector. The package includes a 5 per cent discount on Ajman Transport Authority's franchise bill during the period between 1 October and 31 December if paid in full within 30 days from the bill date, and by 3 per cent if paid within the next 30 days. Abu Dhabi Judicial Academy assesses impact of Covid-19 on contractual obligations and anti-money-laundering.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 61,643
  • Recoveries: 54,831
  • Deaths: 213

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 8 September: Bahrain's education and health ministries launch campaign to conduct Covid-19 tests for all public school administrators, teachers and technicians at the Bahrain International Exhibition & Conference Centre ahead of resumption of the new academic year on 20 September.
  • 6 September: Ministry of Education prepares guidelines for public and private educational institutions on the safe return to in-person classes. The guidelines detail health precautions, safety procedures and contingency plans in light of Covid-19, and cover aspects related to transportation, sanitisation, minimum social distance requirements and student classroom 'bubbles'. The guidelines also cover learning requirements related to curriculums, assessment and blended-learning scenarios.  
  • 6 September: Re-opening of public schools has been postponed by two weeks in order to test all administrative, technical and teaching staff for Covid-19. Public schools were scheduled to re-open for administrative, technical and teaching staff on 6 September, but following the postponement decision, they will start the new academic year on 20 September. The Ministry of Education said there is no change to the opening of private schools.
  • 1 September: Labour & Social Development Minister, Jameel bin Mohammed Ali Humaidan, issues circular to all training institutions stipulating the basic precautionary requirements that training facilities must meet when they resume work. The temperatures of all employees, training staff and trainees will be measured on a daily basis and those whose temperature exceeds 37.5°C will not be allowed in. The precautionary measures also include sterilising all common tools and facilities before and after use, ensuring social distancing and limiting the number of trainees in a class to 10, providing face masks and prohibiting snacks and drinks for trainees while they are at the facility. The circular also encouraged the continuation of virtual training where possible.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 5 September: Nationality, Passport & Residence Affairs resumes on-arrival visa for nationals of 68 countries at Bahrain's ports.
  • 3 September: Percentage of staff working in the office at the Ministry of Labour & Social Development is expected to increase from 6 September. Rehabilitation, training and social care centre staff and employment services staff capacity increased to 77 per cent and 70 per cent respectively, while all labour inspection and labour dispute settlement workers can return.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 96,301
  • Recoveries: 86,219
  • Deaths: 568

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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 installments, 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 installments.
  • 3 September: New precautions announced for Terminal 4 of Kuwait International airport. Only 60 people will be allowed in the arrivals hall at the same time. Entry into the terminal to receive passengers will be allowed only an hour ahead of scheduled flight arrival.
  • 23 August: Arrivals from Afghanistan temporarily banned. Passengers arriving at Kuwait International airport must present PCR test results valid for 96 hours instead of 72 hours. 
  • 10 August: Kuwait Municipality says 10 stores were closed in Hawally for violating Covid-19 precautions last month, while 23 fines and 2,405 warnings were issued to stores flouting safety measures.
  • 3 August: Kuwait Municipality closes 46 shops over Eid al-Adha holidays for breaching precautionary health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
  • 1 August: Commercial flights to 31 countries deemed high-risk banned until further notice. The countries include India, Pakistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, China, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Iraq. Egypt Air is also halting flights to the country.
  • 26 July: Free Covid-19 tests to be offered at government hospitals for citizens and expats. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 31 August: Cabinet discusses draft law encouraging local banks to offer finance to clients impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. Newly restructured board of Kuwait Airways, chaired by Ali al-Dukhan, holds meeting to discuss future plans in light of the pandemic's impact on air travel.
  • 26 August: Ministry of Interior to extend expired residency and visit visas for an additional three months from 1 September for individuals in Kuwait. The extensions come as travel restrictions continue to be imposed in several parts of the world.
  • 25 August: Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education, Saud al-Harbi, approves remote learning for educational facilities during the coming semester. The decision applies to all public and private schools and is subject to revision in November.
  • 24 August: Government team led by Sheikh Mishaal Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah mandated to scrutinise the impacts of Covid-19 on the state's financial revenues as part of wider effort to rectify economic imbalances. 
  • 18 August: Phase 4 economic activities reopen, including beauty salons, tailoring shops, gyms and restaurants. Gyms must ensure equipment is sanitised frequently, and all citizens and expatriates must adhere to mask usage requirements while outdoors. Partial curfew from 9pm-3am remains in place, state news agency Kuna says.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 90,660
  • Recoveries: 84,113
  • Deaths: 797

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 3 September: Health minister warns companies and urges compliance with precautionary measures, failing which fines or closures may be imposed. 
  • 1 September: Supreme commitee for Covid-19 urges continued compliance with precautionary measures, warning that the occupancy rate in hospitals, particularly in intensive care units (ICUs), is still very high.
  • 16 August: Phase 2 of the national investigative survey on Covid-19 in the sultanate begins. The 10-week study will be conducted in four stages, each lasting five days, with intervals of two weeks between the sessions. 
  • 12 August: Oman Society for Petroleum Services signs memorandum of understanding with Tabreed Oman to fund Covid-19 tests. 
  • 5 August: Lockdown to end on 8 August as scheduled. Night-time movement ban from 9pm-5am confirmed for 8-15 August. Dhofar governorate to remain in lockdown until further notice.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 7 September: Supreme committee to manage Covid-19 says international flights will resume on 1 October and approves general framework to resume new academic year. 
  • 1 September: Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saidi, Minister of Health, issues Ministerial Decree No. 120/2020 to form a working group to provide a vaccine against Covid-19. The group will follow up global developments in the field of manufacturing and producing a coronavirus vaccine and set up mechanisms to obtain the appropriate vaccine in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Vaccines & Immunisation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and specialised companies.
  • 25 August: Supreme committee for Covid-19 announces reopening of barbershops and salons after more than five months of closures. Muscat Municipality says some salon services will continue to be suspended, however, as will parties and social gatherings, local newspaper Times of Oman reports. Restaurants, gyms and conference rooms in hotels are also allowed to reopen under the sixth phase of Oman's economic resumption programme. People under the age of 12 and over the age of 60 are not allowed inside certain premises, and wearing masks is mandatory. Two metres of safe distance must be maintained, restaurants must use disposable cutlery and electronic payments are being encouraged.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 122,214
  • Recoveries: 119,144
  • Deaths: 208

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 26 August: Teaching and administrative staff will be tested for Covid-19 prior to the beginning of the new academic year. E-schooling will be adopted for the 2020/21 academic year, which starts on 1 September, with the education ministry specifying system requirements for students' devices. 
  • 19 August: Ministry of Education & Higher Education changes three-phase plan to resume 2020/21 academic year. The new plan will apply blended learning during the first semester of the next academic year based on feedback from the Ministry of Public Health. The move aims to mitigate the academic impact of school closures and delayed academic year resumption on students. Schools may fill up to 30 per cent of their capacity and must observe social distancing. University students will attend classes at 30 per cent capacity daily from September to November. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 4 September: Ministry of Interior allows sea vessels to operate at 30 per cent of maximum capacity, including crew members. The decision, in line with the fourth phase of easing restrictions, covers personal and rental boards, yachts, daily cruising boats and jets. Water scooters are also permitted for individual use. 
  • 31 August: Qatar Rail says Doha Metro is to resume services from 1 September at 30 per cent capacity under phase 4 economic resumption plan. Travellers are required to show their health status on the government's Ehteraz app and access will be denied for those whose body temperature is over 37.8°C. Masks are mandatory, and children under the age of 12 years cannot travel unaccompanied as yet. Ministry of Commerce & Industry issues guidelines for cleaning and hospitality industry staff, mandating the use of masks and gloves while they are working.
  • 30 August: Spa activities, massage services and indoor swimming pools to resume from 15 September with reduced capacity, Ministry of Commerce & Industry says. Occupancy rate of men's hairdressing salons and women's beauty centres raised to 50 per cent of normal capacity, and spa activities, massage services, jacuzzi, Moroccan and Turkish bath services and indoor swimming pools with 30 per cent of normal capacity in hotels.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 407,353
  • Recoveries: 349,984
  • Deaths: 23,453

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 1 September: Cultural Heritage, Tourism & Handicrafts Minister, Ali-Asghar Mounesan, says Iranians must travel responsibly to curb the spread of the virus.
  • 22 August: President Hassan Rouhani warns of third wave of Covid-19 if health precautions are not abided by.
  • 18 August: National Library & Archives of Iran in Tehran is closed until further notice to curb the spread of Covid-19. The library had reopened in June after it was first closed in February. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 5 September: Schools reopen after seven months of closures. 
  • 1 September: President Hassan Rouhani says next year's budget will take the impact of Covid-19 and other economic shocks into consideration, adding: "Although the economic shocks caused by sanctions and the spread of coronavirus in some areas have damaged the country's economy, the government has made every effort to maintain the atmosphere of development and prosperity in production and business as much as possible."
  • 31 August: Tour guide card validity extended until 20 March 2021 to reduce in-person visits for renewals and boost the local tourism sector. Rail companies eligible under the government's $223.8m low-interest liquidity injection programme to combat Covid-19's economic impact will receive their dues from early September.
  • 30 August: Rouhani calls to ramp up availability and wellbeing of healthcare professionals: "Considering the spread of the second wave of the outbreak of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health should take the necessary measures to prevent burnout and exhaustion of the country's medical staff and, if necessary, take necessary measures to train new staff and replace them more quickly."
  • 27 August: Rouhani says the government is working on an economic roadmap for the country, adding: "The government's goal is to implement the economic roadmap to repair the damages caused by the unprecedented sanctions and the outbreak of coronavirus."
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 101,340
  • Recoveries: 85,745
  • Deaths: 5,679

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 31 August: Civil aviation authority says passengers arriving at Hurghada, Sharm el-Sheikh, Marsa Alam and Taba airports can go through Covid-19 PCR tests for $30 at the airports. The decision comes as Egypt begins to enforce a rule requiring negative Covid-19 results, received 72 hours or less prior to arrival, from 1 September. Heritage and tourism sites in the Luxor and Aswan governorates are also due to reopen for international visitors on 1 September.
  • 26 August: Health Minister, Hala Zayed, warns of second wave of Covid-19 due to lax behaviour of some citizens, such as failing to wear masks.
  • 23 August: Health Ministry creates different routes and areas within hospitals for Covid-19 patients. Health Minister Zayed says the country has passed its first wave of Covid-19. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 6 September: Civil aviation authority approves Russian request to resume flights between Cairo and Moscow starting mid-September, after six months of suspension due to the pandemic.  
  • 1 September: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi urges precautionary measures be implemented as archaeological sites reopen in Egypt and schools prepare to reopen in October.
  • 26 August: Cooperation agreement to be signed with Chinese company for Covid-19 vaccine in September. Egyptian Holding Company for Biopharmaceuticals and Vacsera will represent Egypt in the agreement.
  • 22 August: Tourism ministry says archaeological sites will reopen on 1 September. 
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 294,702
  • Recoveries: 233,346
  • Deaths: 8,166

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 5 September: Health ministry warns it may "lose control" of the pandemic if people do not comply with precautionary measures. 
  • 16 August: Higher Committee for National Health & Safety amends the partial curfew to 10pm-5am daily and bans all travellers from entering Iraq for tourism.
  • 9 August: Deputy Minister of Health, Hazim al-Jumaili, says Iraq has yet to hit its peak of Covid-19 infections: "The daily coronavirus infections are still registering large numbers [and sometimes] exceeding 3,000, and this indicates that the citizens are not abiding by the instructions of the Health Ministry and the High Committee for Health & National Safety." Health restrictions to be observed during Muharram will be discussed at the end of this week. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 8 September: Higher Committee for Health & National Safety approves resumption of youth activities, reopening land borders for trade, allowing public offices to work at 50 per cent capacity and reopening restaurants and event spaces in five-star hotels.
  • 1 September: Ministry of Health imports drugs approved by WHO to treat Covid-19 but urges vigilance even as new infection rate slows compared to rate of recovery.
  • 5 August: Deputy Minister of Health, Hazim al-Jumaili, says return to normal life "is not on the table at the moment, but the Higher Committee for Health & National Safety, headed by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, will review the situation.
  • 16 July: Airports will be allowed to open on 23 July and malls are to reopen soon, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines and health precautions. Lockdown hours will be reduced and will be in effect from 9pm-5am, and the total curfew will be revised after the Eid al-Adha holiday. Al-Mundhiriyah, Safwan and Al-Shaib border crossings are to reopen for trade and commercial exchange, Iraq's Higher Committee for Health & Public Safety says. 
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 3,677
  • Recoveries: 2,311
  • Deaths: 26

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 8 September: Government says it will not impose a blanket curfew this weekend, and instead focus on tighter control. Wedding parties, funerals and activities where there are gatherings will be placed under tighter scrutiny. During curfew hours, shops will be required to close at 12am, with curfew hours to begin from 1am. Ghor as-Safi area in the southern governorate of Karak placed under lockdown until further notice. The lockdown includes closing places of worship, public markets, schools and gathering areas, and imposing a curfew from 8pm-6am. Separately, institutional quarantine procedures in force for arrivals at airports will also apply to drivers entering at land border crossings, Land Transport Regulatory Authority director-general, Salah Lozi, says.
  • 2 September: Amman and Zarqa to undergo complete curfew on 4 September, with only essential workers to be exempted from the outdoor movement ban.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 8 September: Commercial flights resume to and from Queen Alia International airport six months after closures. Jordan has divided inbound arrivals into green, yellow and red countries. All travellers must provide proof that they had been resident in the country of departure for at least 14 days and must have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. 'Green country' arrivals must take a second PCR test at the airport and await a negative test result to enter Jordan, while those from 'yellow countries' must be tested and escorted to a mandatory seven-day quarantine at their own expense. Arrivals from 'red countries', with a high prevalence of Covid-19, must enter the government-organised quarantine and then self-isolate at home for a further week, during which they will be required to wear an electronic bracelet.
  • 6 September: Truck drivers exempted from paying JD10 entry fee at border with Saudi Arabia as part of measures to ease financial burden and ensure they comply with quarantine measures. 
  • 4 September: Labour Minister, Nidal al-Batayneh, says government will issue new circular for wage regulation during the month of September. 
  • 2 September: Queen Alia International airport to reopen on 8 September. 
  • 1 September: Prime Minister Omar Razzaz calls for greater compliance with precautionary measures at border crossings with Syria and Saudi Arabia, adding that truck drivers coming from abroad must be in minimal contact with border officials to reduce the risk of infection.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 25,449
  • Recoveries: 9,216
  • Deaths: 252

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 8 September: Syndicate of restaurant, cafe, cabaret & patisserie owners in Lebanon urges food and beverage institutions to comply with precautionary measures or face risk of "returning to square one and complete closures".
  • 26 August: General mobilisation extended until 31 December to curb Covid-19. Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab says the public mobilisation drive is necessary "to protect people from a dangerous and frightening situation with its consequences".
  • 18 August: New lockdown and overnight curfew to be imposed for two weeks from 21 August. The curfew will last from 6pm-6am and malls will be closed. Restaurants will be restricted to delivery services and social gatherings will be banned. Beirut airport will operate normally and ministries will be staffed at half capacity. Areas where recovery work is under way following the Port of Beirut blasts are exempted from new restrictions. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 8 September: Caretaker Interior Minister, Mohamed Fahmi, relaxes coronavirus precautions after end of two-week curfew. The curfew will now last from 6am-1pm. For the first time since a coronavirus lockdown was implemented in March, cinemas will be allowed to reopen, local newspaper the Daily Star reports. Nightclubs, social event halls, markets and Casino du Liban will also be permitted to reopen.
  • 26 August: President Michel Aoun says reopening restaurants is vital for tourism and services revenues, but public health priorities will dictate when the sector may reopen. Aoun's statement comes after AFP reported Lebanese restaurant owners stating they would reopen their facilities in defiance of lockdown measures implemented since last week.
  • 19 August: UK sends 238,530 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to help "overstretched hospitals" in Beirut deal with Covid-19 patients, state news agency NNA reports. The WHO will distribute the face masks, overalls, gloves, goggles and gowns to hospitals across the city. 
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 90,324
  • Recoveries: 71,047
  • Deaths: 1,648

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 8 September: Regional Academy of Education & Training of Dakhla-Oued Eddahab announces distance learning for 15 days in all public and private schools under the provincial directorates of National Education of Oued Eddahab & Aousserd for the school year 2020/21. 
  • 7 September: Family visits to penitentiary institutions suspended from 8 September until health conditions improve. Remote education to be implemented in phases or cycles for public and private schools in Marrakech. Morocco's education ministry said earlier this week that remote education would be mandated for schools located in Covid-19 hotspots, and for students that have a confirmed Covid-19 patient at home.
  • 6 September: Restrictions introduced in Casablanca for 14 days from 7 September. Schools are to be closed, with local markets, cafes and shops, and restaurants required to close at 3pm, 8pm and 9pm, respectively. Night-time movement is banned from 10pm-5am.
  • 4 September: Provincial Coordination Post, in charge of managing the Covid-19 pandemic, decides to ban all travel to and from the cities of Khenifra and M'rirt, except for people with an exceptional travel authorisation, from 6 September. Public transport is suspended and it is decided to close cafes and restaurants in both cities at 10pm, to prohibit all access to green areas and public spaces beyond 10pm, and to close the weekly Ahtab souk in the city of Khenifra, as well as the cattle souks of the two cities. It is also decided to ban all commercial activity other than the sale of vegetables and fruits in the weekly souk of M'rirt, close markets and shops at 5pm and ban the broadcast of football matches in cafes in both cities.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 1 September: Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education & Scientific Research says vocational training season will begin on 12 October and that the final vocational training exams for second-year trainees at the specialised technician, technician and qualification levels, initially postponed, will be held on 15-18 September. The Office of Vocational Training & Labor Promotion will schedule examinations for qualification levels in a single year and of specialisation in November 2020, in addition to the continuation of revision courses remotely from 7 September. 
  • 1 September: Minister of Economy, Finance & Administration Reform, Mohamed Benchaaboun, signs three guarantee agreements relating to loans granted by the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development for the National Airports Office (ONDA), the National Highways Company (ADM) and the National Office for Electricity & Drinking Water (ONEE). The loans are worth MD3.2bn ($357m) and aim to support the public sector entities cope with the impact of Covid-19.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 24,144
  • Recoveries: 13,252
  • Deaths: 383

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19: 

  • 7 September: Head of the National Center 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. 
  • 26 August: Four-day curfew, starting at 6pm, imposed from 26 August. This will be followed by a 10-day, 9pm-6am curfew, with Fridays and Saturdays set for 24-hour curfews. Social events are banned and public transport and market services remain suspended. Public work capacity limited to 30 per cent after the total curfew ends, local media reports. 
  • 11 August: Government of National Accord's (GNA) education minister-designate, Mihammed Emmari, says plan to resume schools and universities will be announced soon. Previous plans to resume school activity on 8 August were cancelled based on medical advice, and online learning was expected to continue until secondary school exams end in October.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 30 August: Land, sea and air borders reopen in Eastern Libya, based on advice from the Anti-Coronavirus Advisory Committee. A monthly list will be prepared to classify countries into 'red' and 'green' categories based on which epidemiological precautions will be exercised. Negative Covid-19 test results, acquired less than 48 hours prior to arrival, are required for entry, Libya Herald reports. 
  • 26 August: Primary schools expected to reopen on 12 September. Secondary school classes will resume from 29 August. Final exams for secondary school students have been planned for 3-15 October.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 7,623
  • Recoveries: 2,262
  • Deaths: 123

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 8 September: Mobile military microbiology laboratory set up in the governorate of Kebili, southern Tunisia.
  • 2 September: Director-general of the National Observatory of New & Emerging Diseases, Nissaf Ben Alaya, says schools will be shut down if multiple Covid-19 infections are detected.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 2 September: Independent technical committee comprising members of various ministries is assigned to check operational readiness of private real-time PCR (RT-PCR) testing centres. Health ministry to launch online portal to book Covid-19 tests.
  • 1 September: Prime Minister-designate, Hichem Mechichi, pledges to continue supporting institutions impacted by Covid-19. Separately, a partnership agreement aimed at combatting issues related to Covid-19 and its impact on the tourism and hotels sector was signed by Tunisia JOBS and the local Edhiafa Association. The agreement will provide the Edhiafa Association with the means to support the business resilience of small and boutique Tunisian hotels during and after the pandemic. 
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 48,734
  • Recoveries: 34,384
  • Deaths: 1,632

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 7 September: Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad says date to reopen schools in Algeria has not been set, and will depend on data about the pandemic: "We do not want to take any risk for our children and their parents at this point."
  • 31 August: Curfew renewed in the Boumerdes, Bouira, Relizane, Medea, Blida, Tipaza, Algiers, Oran, Annaba and Bejaia provinces. The curfew takes effect from 1 September for a period of 30 days and prohibits movement from 11pm-6am. This curfew has also been imposed on the Tebessa, Illizi, El-Tarf, Ain Defla, Tlemcen, Tizi-Ouzou, Tindouf and Jijel provinces, where the epidemiological situation has worsened. Public and private transport remains barred during the weekends in these provinces. Family gatherings and weddings also remain banned.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 2 September: Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad chairs government meeting to discuss implementation of economic recovery plan, which includes measures to roll out by the end of 2020, in 2021 and in 2022-24. 
  • 31 August: Ban on cultural activities such as museums and libraries lifted as part of plans to partially lift the national curfew. Nurseries may reopen at 50 per cent capacity. Curfew lifted in the Souk Ahras, Tissemsilt, Djelfa, Mascara, Oum el-Bouaghi, Batna, Biskra, Khenchela, M'sila, Chlef, Sidi Bel Abbes, Bordj Bou Arreridj, Ouargla, Bechar, Constantine, Setif, Adrar, Laghouat and El-Oued provinces. Sports ministry authorities mull gradual resumption of activities, and exceptional paid leave granted to women who are pregnant or are raising children aged under 14 years is lifted. 
  • 27 August: Government endorses draft executive decree allowing the maintenance of interest rate subsidies on loans granted by banks and financial institutions in favour of companies and individuals in difficulty because of the coronavirus pandemic. Minister of Finance also informs government of a draft presidential decree setting out the specific measures to adapt public procurement procedures to contend with the pandemic's impact. 
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 2,016
  • Recoveries: 1,219
  • Deaths: 583

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

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

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 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 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 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 3,614
  • Recoveries: 871
  • Deaths: 160

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 16 August: Ministry of Interior said 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. 
  • 10 August: First case of Covid-19 among residents of Al-Hol camp causes concern among relief workers. As many as 43,000 children will be impacted by an outbreak in the camp, Save the Children warns.
  • 5 August: Only critical staff with PPE are allowed to operate inside Al-Hol internally displaced people's camp in Al-Hasakah governorate as cases mount in the country, including in the healthcare sector. 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:

  • 24 June: Syrian health ministry receives new batch of medical aid from China, including testing kits, protective suits, face masks, goggles and infrared thermometers.
  • 25 May: Damascus eases lockdown restrictions to support economic growth, but repatriation flights put on hold as recently returned Syrians are treated.
  • 3 May: President Bashar al-Assad says Syria could face a "real catastrophe" if Covid-19 cases grow.
As of 10.30 GST, 9 September 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during August 2020.

 

15 September: Regional Covid-19 cases near 1.8 million

The UAE has approved giving vaccines to frontline workers

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,787,131 on 14 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 43.6 per cent of all regional cases (775,158), while Iran alone makes up 22.8 per cent (402,029) of all Mena cases.

Wider Mena nations excluding Iran account for 33.6 per cent (597,225) of regional infections.

Iran has the highest number of regional Covid-19 cases, followed by Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 326,258 cases, 303,930 recoveries and 4,305 deaths to date.

Iraq is the next worst-hit country, with 294,478 confirmed cases, 229,132 recoveries and 8,086 deaths.

In the UAE, there have been 80,266 cases, 69,981 recoveries and 9,886 deaths. On 14 September, the Ministry of Health approved the use of a Covid-19 vaccine for frontline workers. The vaccine was developed by Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare and China's Sinopharm CNBG, the world’s sixth-largest vaccine manufacturer.

 

9 September: Iraq further eases Covid-19 restrictions

Partial reopening of sports and restaurants permitted as Mena cases top 1.7 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,691,291 on 9 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 44.6 per cent of all regional cases (753,526), while Iran alone makes up 23.1 per cent (391,112) of all Mena cases.

Wider Mena nations excluding Iran account for 32.3 per cent (546,653) of regional infections.

Iran has the highest number of regional Covid-19 cases, followed by Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 322,237 cases, 298,246 recoveries and 4,137 deaths to date.

Iraq is the next worst-hit country, with 269,578 confirmed cases, 206,324 recoveries and 7,657 deaths.

The country's Higher Committee for Health and National Safety held a meeting led by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on 8 September.

The committee permitted youth, sports activities and events in various fields to resume from 12 September, but spectators will not be allowed.

Restaurants, event halls and tourist facilities at five-star hotels are permitted to reopen after precautionary measures are put in place as directed by the Ministry of Health.

Land border crossings may reopen to facilitate trade, and ministries and official public institutions are permitted to work at 50 per cent capacity.

 

8 September: Covid-19 cases cross 750,000-mark in GCC

Saudi Arabia extends visa validity and UAE approves vaccination policy as pandemic continues Mena-wide spread

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,676,497 on 8 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 44.7 per cent (750,049) of all confirmed infections, while Iran comprises 23.2 per cent (388,810) of Mena cases.

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Covid-19 cases within the GCC, with 321,456 infections confirmed to date. 

So far, 297,623 recoveries and 4,107 deaths have been announced in the kingdom. 

Yesterday, the Saudi General Directorate of Passports extended the validity of re-entry visas for expats stranded abroad until 30 September. No fee will be charged for the month-long extension.

Meanwhile, the UAE has confirmed 74,454 cases, 66,533 recoveries and 390 deaths related to Covid-19 so far.

On 7 September, the UAE cabinet, chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, approved the National Policy on Vaccinations, which will serve as a coordination framework for all authorities concerned with vaccinations in the country.

The framework also includes policies on safeguarding public health during health emergencies and outbreaks.

On the same day, Abu Dhabi-based flag carrier Etihad Airways introduced a global Covid-19 health insurance plan for its customers.

The Axa insurance scheme will cover up to $177,130 of medical costs and $118 of quarantine costs a day for 14 days. All Etihad tickets regardless of date of booking, for travel between now and 31 December, will include the Covid-19 insurance, which is valid worldwide for 31 days from the first day of travel.

 

7 September: Mena has 1.66 million Covid-19 cases

Closures reintroduced in Casablanca as infection numbers grow rapidly outside the GCC and Iran

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,663,180 on 7 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 44.9 per cent of all regional cases, while those in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, make up 31.9 per cent of all confirmed infections.

Case numbers have rapidly grown in the wider Mena region since August.

In Morocco, restrictions have been introduced in Casablanca for 14 days, starting 7 September. Schools are to be closed, with local markets, cafes and shops, and restaurants required to close at 3pm, 8pm and 9pm, respectively. 

Night-time movement is banned between 10pm and 5am, the government said on 6 September.

The Casablanca closures came after the Provincial Coordination Post, in charge of managing the Covid-19 pandemic, earlier this week banned all travel to and from the cities of Khenifra and Mrirt, except for people with an exceptional travel authorisation, effective 6 September.

Public transport is suspended, and cafes and restaurants in both cities must close at 10pm. Access to green areas and public spaces is prohibited beyond 10pm, and the weekly Ahtab souk in Khenifra as well as the cattle souks in both cities are closed. 

It was also decided to ban all commercial activity other than the sale of vegetables and fruits in Mrirt's weekly souk.

Markets and shops must close at 5pm, and football matches are not permitted to be broadcast in cafes in both cities.

To date, Morocco has confirmed 72,394 cases of Covid-19, with 55,274 recoveries and 1,361 deaths.

 

6 September: Iraq braces for new spike in Covid-19 cases

Health Ministry warns of losing control of the pandemic after record daily growth in cases is announced

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,650,030 on 6 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 45.1 per cent of all regional cases. Iran alone accounts for 23.3 per cent of infections in the Mena region.

Case numbers have rapidly grown in wider Mena countries in recent days. Chief among these is Iraq, where cases rose by 88.5 per cent between August and September.

Iraq had 124,609 confirmed Covid-19 cases on 1 August, with the number reaching 234,934 on 1 September.

As of 6 September, Iraq has 256,719 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 195,259 recoveries and 7,422 deaths.

On 4 September, Iraq recorded its highest single-day rise in Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, confirming 5,036 new cases at the time.

The Health Ministry attributed the spike to large gatherings that took place without recommended safety measures, such as the use of masks.

"The number of cases is expected to escalate further in the coming days, which we fear will lead our health institutions to lose control as they try to deal with these large numbers," Iraq's Health Ministry said on 4 September.

"This will lead to an increase in the number of deaths, after we made headway in reducing them over the past few weeks."

 

3 September: Jordan to reopen airport after Covid-19 closures

Queen Alia International airport to resume services as regional Covid-19 tally breaches 1.6 million mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,609,134 on 3 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 45.6 per cent of all regional cases, while Iran alone makes up 23.5 per cent.

The regional epicentre of the new coronavirus, Iran has confirmed 378,752 Covid-19 cases to date, with 326,801 recoveries and 21,797 deaths.

Iran has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region, while Jordan and Yemen have among the lowest rates of infection. 

To date, 2,161 infections have been confirmed in Jordan, with 1,610 recoveries and 15 deaths.

On 2 September, the Jordanian government announced that a 24-hour complete curfew would be imposed on 4 September in Amman and Zarqa to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The government also said yesterday that the Queen Alia International airport will reopen on 8 September.

Travellers from 'green' countries will be required to present negative PCR test results, and have spent 14 days at their port of departure, prior to the flight.

They must also take a second PCR test upon arrival in Jordan, and self-quarantine even if their result is negative. 

Queen Alia International airport was closed in mid-March to curb the spread of Covid-19.

 

2 September: Morocco receives EU funding to combat Covid-19

EBRD provides additional $357m for state-held companies as regional Covid-19 case tally nears 1.6 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,596,682 on 2 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 45.8 per cent of all regional cases.

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the GCC, with 316,670 confirmed infections, 291,514 recoveries and 3,929 deaths.

Outside the GCC, countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, comprise 30.6 per cent (489,320) of the total 1.59 million infections.

Iraq (238,338) and Egypt (99,115) have among the highest rates of infection in the wider Mena region. In the Maghreb, Morocco has confirmed 63,781 cases to date, with 48,922 recoveries and 1,184 deaths.

On 1 September, the Moroccan Minister of Economy, Finance and Administration Reform, Mohamed Benchaaboun, signed three guarantee agreements relating to loans granted by the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) for the National Airports Office, the National Highways Company and the National Office for Electricity & Drinking Water.

The loans are worth MD3.2bn ($357m) and aim to help the public sector entities cope with the impact of Covid-19.

Benchaaboun said earlier this week that the first tranche of the EBRD's MD2.2bn ($240m) funding for Morocco had been paid out.

The first tranche was worth about MD1bn and will support the Moroccan National Response Plan against Covid-19. 

 

1 September: Algeria amends curfew to curb Covid-19

Nurseries and cultural activities allowed to reopen while movement restrictions are imposed in new provinces

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,585,587 on 1 September, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the wider Mena region, excluding the GCC and Iran, make up 30.4 per cent of all confirmed infections.

The health situation remains sensitive in countries such as Algeria, which has renewed its lockdown measures even as parts of the country begin to reopen for economic activity.

Algeria's ban on cultural activities such as museums and libraries has been lifted, and the exceptional paid leave granted to women who are pregnant or raising children aged below 14 years has been rolled back as well.

Nurseries may reopen at 50 per cent capacity, and the national curfew has also been lifted in the Souk Ahras, Tissemsilt, Djelfa, Mascara, Oum el-Bouaghi, Batna, Biskra, Khenchela, M'sila, Chlef, Sidi Bel Abbes, Bordj Bou Arreridj, Ouargla, Bechar, Constantine, Sétif, Adrar, Laghouat and El-Oued provinces.

However, the curfew has been renewed in the Boumerdes, Bouira, Relizane, Médéa, Blida, Tipaza, Algiers, Oran, Annaba and Bejaia provinces from 1 September for a period of 30 days, and prohibits movement from 11pm to 6am.

This curfew has also been imposed on the Tebessa, Illizi, El-Tarf, Ain Defla, Tlemcen, Tizi-Ouzou, Tindouf and Jijel provinces, where the epidemiological situation has worsened.

Public and private transport remains barred during the weekends in these provinces. Family gatherings and weddings are also banned.

Iran comprises 23.7 per cent of all Mena infections, and as the regional epicentre of the new coronavirus, the Iranian economy has suffered in 2020.

Deputy Tourism Minister, Pouya Mahmoudian, said yesterday that the Covid-19 outbreak had caused losses of around $452m in Iran's handicrafts and related industries.

The closure of handicrafts and exhibition areas, combined with the ban on tourists through much of this year, has led to a significant business downturn in the sector. Handicrafts are also a vital component of Iran's rural economies.

To date, Iran has confirmed 375,212 cases of Covid-19, with 323,233 recoveries and 21,571 deaths.

 

31 August: Covid-19 cases cross 1.57 million-mark in Mena

Case growth appears to slow amid second wave in Iran, which comprises 23.7 per cent of all Mena infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,574,459 on 31 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 46 per cent of all Mena infections, while Iran alone makes up 23.7 per cent of regional cases.

To date, Iran has confirmed 373,570 cases of Covid-19, with 321,421 recoveries and 21,462 deaths.

Iran reported 1,754 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, marking its lowest number of daily infections in more than three months.

Daily deaths also dropped for the seventh day to 103.

President Hassan Rouhani on 30 August called on local authorities to ramp up efforts to ensure the availability and wellbeing of healthcare professionals in Iran.

"Considering the spread of the second wave of the outbreak of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health should take the necessary measures to prevent burnout and exhaustion of the country's medical staff and, if necessary, take necessary measures to train new staff and replace them more quickly," he said.

"Those who have traveled during the recent holidays should not allow their non-compliance with protocols to cause a new escalation of the Covid-19 outbreak, and negatively affect the hard work of the medical staff."

 

30 August: Tunisia eyes post-pandemic funding for SMEs

Government mulls post-pandemic realities for SMEs as Mena case tally crosses 1.56 million-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,563,134 on 30 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 46.2 per cent of all regional cases, while Iran makes up 23.8 per cent of Mena infections.

Countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, make up 30 per cent of all 1.56 million cases.

In the North African region, Tunisia is among the countries with the lowest numbers of Covid-19 cases.

To date, the country has confirmed 3,572 cases of Covid-19, with 1,536 recoveries and 76 deaths.

Curfews were imposed in selected Tunisian governorates last week as part of measures to curb Covid-19. 

Tunis is also seeking to accelerate post-pandemic economic recovery. 

On 29 August, Labid Zaafrane, the CEO of Banque de Financement des Petites et Moyennes Enterprises (BFPME), told small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the country to seek alternative funding and abandon traditional bank loans.

The currently high cost of debt will not help entrepreneurs to develop and expand their institutions, he warned.

President of the Tunisian Association of Capital Investors, Mohamed Salah Frad, also called on companies to turn to investment houses to finance their projects and mobilise long-term equity.

Frad also said companies must limit the use of conventional bank financing, which he said had shown limits in recent times.

Zaafrane and Frad were speaking at a government-backed event held to explore post-pandemic challenges and opportunities for SMEs in Tunisia.

 

27 August: Lebanon moves to rein in Covid-19 spike

Mobilisation drive to curb cases extended until the end of 2020

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,527,192 on 27 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 46.8 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region, and Iran makes up 23.9 per cent of all confirmed infections.

Iran (365,606), Saudi Arabia (310,836) and Iraq (215,784) have the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

Case numbers have rapidly grown in Iraq, where, to date, 157,215 recoveries and 6,668 deaths have been reported due to Covid-19. 

Additionally, a worrying spike in Covid-19 cases is occurring in Lebanon, which has already been ravaged by an unprecedented economic crisis and the Beirut Port blasts.

Yesterday, President Michel Aoun said reopening restaurants was vital for tourism and services revenues, but public health priorities would dictate when the sector may reopen.

Aoun's statement came after AFP reported Lebanese restaurant owners stating they would reopen their facilities in defiance of lockdown measures implemented since last week.

"From tomorrow, we will open our doors," Tony Ramy, head of the syndicate of owners of restaurants, cafes, nightclubs and pastry shops, said in a France24 report on 26 August.

"The arbitrary and demagogic decision to close down, whether partially or fully, does not concern us anymore. Our losses are estimated at $1bn."

Lebanon's general mobilisation, which gives authorities broad powers to implement preventive measures, was extended until the end of 2020 to curb Covid-19 yesterday.

Caretaker PM Hassan Diab said the public mobilisation drive was necessary "to protect people from a dangerous and frightening situation with its consequences".

Justifying the ninth extension of the mobilisation since its 16 March launch, Diab added: "The number of deaths that are recorded is remarkably high, and this gives a negative indication of the severity of injuries. The capacity of hospitalisation is declining, and the number of beds designated for difficult cases has become very limited.

"On the other hand [is] a group of people who do not adhere to the procedures, but on the contrary are challenging these procedures. This raises the number of infections, and as a result, if the situation continues as it is now, we will reach a time when we lose our ability to confront this pandemic."

 

26 August: Jordan and Kuwait target e-schooling amid Covid-19

Mena states ready to reopen schools as regional case tally crosses 1.51 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,514,375 on 26 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 47 per cent of all regional cases, while Iran comprises 24 per cent of all Mena infections.

Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Syria collectively make up the remaining 29 per cent of cases in the Mena region.

Schools are preparing to reopen in parts of the Mena region.

Jordan confirmed yesterday that schools would open as scheduled on 1 September.

In areas without infections or isolation measures and where schools meet the requirement of allocating 1 square metre for each student inside the classroom and 2 sq m outside, education delivery will continue as usual.

In schools that cannot meet the social distancing criteria, a mixture of in-person and distance education will be implemented, with half the class attending school on certain days while the other half receives distance education, and vice versa.

Schools will not open in isolated and locked-down neighbourhoods, and distance education will be used. Furthermore, if an infection occurs in a school, it will be closed and must resort to distance education.

Jordan has confirmed 1,716 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 1,344 recoveries and 14 deaths.

Yesterday, Kuwait also confirmed it would adopt distance learning for the upcoming semester.

Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education Saud al-Harbi said the decision was applicable to all public and private schools, and is subject to revision in November.

 

24 August: Iran's Rouhani warns of third Covid-19 wave

Iranian president calls for adherence to health precautions as Mena cases approach 1.5 million-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,491,206 on 24 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 47.3 per cent of all regional infections, while Iran comprises 24.1 per cent of Mena cases.

Countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, account for 28.6 per cent of all regional infections.

Saudi Arabia has the GCC's highest number of Covid-19 cases.

To date, 307,479 infections have been confirmed in the kingdom, with 280,143 recoveries and 3,649 deaths.

On 22 August, the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development defined health precautions for public sector employees to return to office work from 30 August.

Remote working may be approved for employees if the number working outside the office does not exceed 25 per cent of the total workforce. 

Iran remains the Mena region's worst-hit country for Covid-19 cases, with 358,905 confirmed infections, 309,464 recoveries and 20,643 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani earlier this week warned of a third wave of Covid-19 infections if health precautions are not abided by. 

"Some are asking if there will be a third coronavirus wave," he said.

"Undoubtedly, it is us who play a role in the formation of the third wave, and if health protocols are not followed, we will definitely have the third wave."

 

20 August: Bahrain amends Covid-19 rules for airport arrivals

Mandatory 10-day quarantine lifted as Mena case numbers cross 1.44 million-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,443,377 on 20 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for around 48.1 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Bahrain has the fewest Covid-19 cases in the GCC region. As of 20 August, the country had confirmed 47,950 infections, with 44,278 recoveries and 178 deaths.

More than one million PCR tests have been conducted to date in Bahrain. 

On 19 August, the country's National Medical Task Force for combatting the coronavirus (Covid-19) lifted the compulsory 10-day quarantine requirement for incoming passengers who are negative for the illness following their test in Bahrain.

However, PCR testing for all arrivals at Bahrain International airport will continue, with travellers to pay for two tests – one upon arrival and another one 10 days after their arrival – at a total cost of BD60 ($160).

They must also download and activate the BeAware Bahrain smartphone app.

Further precautions have also been announced in Jordan, which has the lowest number of infections in all of the Mena region.

The country's Rusaifa Municipality yesterday closed its sports city and public parks after a Covid-19 case emerged. 

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz warned against flouting precautions amid 'alarming' growth in case numbers, and called on healthcare officials to prepare for worst-case scenarios. 

To date, Jordan has confirmed 1,482 cases of Covid-19, with 1,259 recoveries and 11 deaths.

 

19 August: UAE ramps up post Covid-19 economy

Plans are being formulated to resume the 2020/21 cruise season in the UAE as infections continue to grow in Middle East and North Africa

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,430,214 on 19 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 48.3 per cent of all regional cases, while wider Mena countries, excluding Iran, make up 27.4 per cent of the 1.43 million infections.

The UAE has the GCC's second-lowest number of cases (64,906), with 57,909 recoveries and 366 deaths to date.

On 18 August, Omar al-Hammadi, the official spokesperson for the UAE government, said a worrying increase in the number of daily cases among citizens and residents has been noted in recent days.

He also warned against the use of products that are wrongly being promoted for their ability to combat Covid-19 without any scientific basis, and called for precautions to be maintained while visiting gyms or participating in sporting activities. 

The UAE has also been among the fastest economies in the Mena region to resume commercial activities previously halted to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on 18 August reviewed the Ministry of Economy's post-pandemic plans, which aim to promote the drive towards new economic models based on smart technology and advanced sciences. 

On the same day, it was announced that P&O Marinas has conducted a virtual workshop with the Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing and Emirates airline to discuss the resumption of the 2020/21 cruise season in Dubai.

Precautionary measures and safety protocols are being formulated for cruise tourism.

Meanwhile, the UAE's Minister of Climate Change & Environment, Abdullah Belhaif al-Nuaimi, said that transitioning to a green economy is paramount for post-pandemic economic recovery in the UAE and beyond.

"Countries around the world are currently shaping their recovery plans, and we urge them to align their post-coronavirus economic activities with the environmental protection priority, because climate change still is the most important existential threat to humanity," he said.

 

18 August: Covid-19 awareness hits hurdles in wider region

Lebanese minister says masks are a matter of "life or death" and Amman moves to dispel Covid-19 conspiracies

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,416,962 on 18 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 48.5 per cent of all regional cases, while those in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, make up 27.1 per cent of the 1.4 million infections.

The epidemiological situation is particularly challenging in Lebanon, where the Port of Beirut blasts earlier this month have further burdened an already struggling healthcare sector.

Lebanon's Minister of Public Health, Hamad Hassan, on 17 August called for a nationwide lockdown to curb Covid-19 in the country.

"When a specific number of coronavirus cases is announced, this means that there are about 10 times more cases that have not been diagnosed.

"Face masks are a matter of life or death, so people must wear them everywhere they go."

Hassan's recommendation for a two-week lockdown excludes Beirut, and calls for special procedures to be implemented at the Port of Beirut, where blast recovery work is under way.

He also recommended that the World Bank's $40m financial support to the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health, approved on 12 March, be used to pay private hospitals treating Covid-19 patients.

In addition, Hassan proposed a one-week quarantine at homes and hotels for people returning to the country: "The transmission of the virus from an expatriate to their family significantly contributes to community outbreaks.

"We no longer enjoy the luxury of time and mood to adhere to procedures. Therefore, cooperation, responsibility and commitment are required, otherwise we will suffer a disaster.”

On the other hand, case numbers have largely been controlled in Jordan, which is the Mena region's least-hit country for Covid-19.

To date, 1,398 cases have been confirmed in Jordan, with 1,241 recoveries and 11 deaths.

The Jordanian government is continuing to drive awareness programmes to ensure residents comply with precautionary measures.

Minister of State for Media Affairs, Amjad Adaileh, said a study conducted on the extent of citizens' awareness about Covid-19 showed that about 43 per cent of them are taking the virus "seriously".

Of the remaining 57 per cent that have doubts about the existence of the pandemic, Adaileh said 8 per cent believe "the virus is a lie or a conspiracy".

Adaileh urged Jordanians to maintain physical distancing, wear masks and avoid social gatherings, adding: "We hope that we do not return to [a full lockdown] again, and that it remains something from the past."

 

17 August: Abu Dhabi schools set to reopen

Five models for education delivery have been approved in the UAE capital as cases cross 1.4 million in the Middle East and North Africa

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,405,825 on 17 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 48.7 per cent of all infections in the Mena region, while Iran accounts for 24.4 per cent of regional cases.

With 298,542 cases, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the GCC.

To date, the kingdom has also reported 266,953 recoveries and 3,408 deaths due to the illness.

The UAE, meanwhile, has 64,312 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 57,694 recoveries and 364 deaths.

Economic resumption is under way in the country, where residents and tourists have been permitted to fly in over the past month, and schools are readying to reopen.

On 16 August, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Committee for Covid-19 and the Department of Education & Knowledge (Adek) approved plans to reopen private schools with physical attendance in the new academic year. 

Adek has approved the five models for private schools in Abu Dhabi to implement in-person attendance, including policies and guidelines to analyse physical capacity.

The models are: full in-class (face-to-face) learning, with students going to school every day; partial in-class learning, with students going to school every day for half a day; and alternating days, including only two days a week for in-class learning.

Other models approved by Adek include combining physical and remote learning for two weeks each, as well as a hybrid model that includes in-class learning for two days, and three days for online learning for the first week, with three days for in-class learning and two days for online learning for the following week.

The return of students to the classroom in person will be staggered. Students starting kindergarten to grade five will return in-person from the first day of school, while all other grades will return four weeks after school starts.

 

16 August: Covid-19 cases near 1.4 million-mark in Mena

Jordan announces further border closures and curbs as it remains the region's least-infected nation

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,393,409 on 16 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 48.9 per cent of all confirmed cases.

Iran, with 341,070 cases, makes up 24.5 per cent of all Mena infections.

To date, 295,630 recoveries and 19,492 deaths due to Covid-19 have been reported in Iran.

It is the worst-hit Mena country for Covid-19 cases and is considered the regional epicentre of the illness.

On the other hand, Jordan is the least-hit nation for Covid-19 in the Mena region.

To date, 1,339 cases, with 1,229 recoveries and 11 deaths, have been confirmed by the Hashemite kingdom.

Stringent governance has helped Jordan contain the virus. On 15 August, Prime Minister Omar Razzaz called for the tightening of curbs at the Al-Omari border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia to "prevent any violations that could adversely impact [Jordan's] epidemiological situation".

The country's northern Ramtha district is to be placed on indefinite lockdown from 17 August, with a curfew to run from 8pm to 6am in the area.

 

13 August: Mena nations maintain curbs to contain Covid-19

Governments in the GCC and the Levant are continuing to impose select restrictions as Mena cases cross 1.35 million mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,355,301 on 13 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 49.5 per cent (671,535) of all Mena cases.

Iran's 333,699 cases make up 24.6 per cent of the regional total.

Countries in the Gulf and the Levant are stepping up efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In Bahrain, prayers at mosques, collective worship and religious assemblies will remain suspended until Covid-19's risks are adequately mitigated, the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs said yesterday.

Gatherings and other instances of precautionary measures being flouted are keeping overall health risk levels lower than those required by the council to re-open mosques and places of worship and permit religious crowds, it said in a statement.

"Therefore, and based on its religious responsibility, on the Sharia enjoinments to protect lives and not to expose them to danger or to pandemics, and on the recommendations of the competent medical authorities, the council announces that prayers in mosques, collective worship and religious gatherings will remain suspended."

Qatar's Ministry of Public Health has launched a pilot project for Covid-19 environmental testing, as part of which surface, air and wastewater samples will be checked for traces of the coronavirus.

It is expected to help Qatar detect the presence of the virus and monitor its potential spread, particularly through the concentration of the virus in wastewater.

Jordan's Prime Minister Omar Razzaz yesterday issued a circular prohibiting any employee or visitor from entering ministries, and public departments, institutions and places without wearing masks.

The Hashemite kingdom's interior ministry has also closed the Jaber border it shares with Syria for one week, starting 13 August, to curb Covid-19's spread.

 

12 August: GCC steps up Covid-19 research spending

The UAE's first independent biomedical research hub is launched as Bahrain unveils study with the UN

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,343,021 on 12 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Together, the six GCC countries account for 49.7 per cent (668,002) of all Mena cases. Iran alone accounts for 331,189 (24.7 per cent) of regional infections.

Gulf countries are stepping up efforts to drive socioeconomic recovery as they begin to emerge from lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In addition to vaccine development efforts, significant investments are being made in the research and development sector.

On 11 August, the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced the launch of a joint project to assess the socioeconomic impact of Covid-19.

The project will include research activities, including national surveys on various topics related to the pandemic, such as social distancing, telemedicine, distance learning and remote working. 

In the UAE, the country's first independent biomedical research centre, the Mohammed bin Rashid Medical Research Institute, was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The facility seeks to conduct research to address the Covid-19 pandemic and other viral diseases. It has been established with an initial investment of AED300m as part of the Al-Jalila Foundation. 

It is expected to bring a 4 per cent return on investment, amounting to AED10.5m annually, which will be reinvested in healthcare and research programmes.

The centre aims to contribute to global efforts against the pandemic by providing advanced equipment and funding to support research led by scientists, specialists and experts.

 

11 August: Covid-19 infections grow in Libya and Syria

Authorities and charity organisations express concern as Mena cases reach 1.33 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,331,194 on 11 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC have 49.9 per cent of all Mena infections, marking the first time since the end of May 2020 that the GCC's share in the Mena region's Covid-19 cases has dropped below 50 per cent.

The reduction, which has come despite more than a two-fold increase in actual case numbers, is accompanied by growing infection figures in the wider Mena region.

Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Algeria together account for 25.4 per cent (337,853 infections) of all confirmed cases in the Mena region.

On 10 August, the head of the Libyan National Centre for Disease Control, Badr al-Deen Najjar, said case numbers are rapidly growing in Tripoli, Misrata and the southern region of the country.

Several new cases have also emerged in the Abu Salim, Hay al-Andalus and Souq al-Jumua municipalities.

Najjar said the country must ideally conduct 10,000 Covid-19 tests a day, but is currently maxed out at 1,500 tests across eight laboratories, the Libya Observer reported.

Similarly worrying trends have emerged in Syria, where non-governmental organisation Save the Children has detected the first case in the Al-Hol camp.

Sonia Khush, Syria response director for US-headquartered non-governmental organisation Save the Children, said in a 10 August statement: "An outbreak of Covid-19 in Al-Hol camp is going to be challenging to control considering how overcrowded the camp is and how little access families have to water, personal hygiene items, tests and protective equipment, with more than 65,000 people living in the camp at the moment. 

"We renew our calls for aid workers to be allowed full access to communities so we can do all we can to control the spread of infection, providing remote education and distributing soap and other personal hygiene items."

As of 5 August, only critical staff, with personal protective equipment, were allowed to operate inside the Al-Hol camp in Al-Hasakah governorate.

 

10 August: Bahrain to conduct Covid-19 vaccine trials

Kingdom to work with UAE and Chinese partners as Mena cases cross 1.32 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,320,091 on 10 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 50.1 per cent of all regional cases, while Iran alone makes up 24.7 per cent of Mena infections.

Vaccine trials are under way across various parts of the GCC. After the UAE and Saudi Arabia revealed phase 3 trial progress earlier this month, Bahrain has announced plans to conduct vaccine tests as well.

Bahrain's phase 3 vaccine trials are to be carried out in collaboration with stakeholders from the UAE, Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group (CNBG), and artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42.

The vaccine will be tested on 6,000 citizen and expatriate volunteers in Bahrain.

Iran, the Mena region's worst-hit country for Covid-19, expects the coronavirus' impact to continue for at least another six months, or until a vaccine is developed for the illness.

President Hassan Rouhani said earlier this week it was no longer feasible to implement severe anti-coronavirus restrictions in Iran.

Rouhani said this was particularly important as Covid-19 may persist for six months or until a vaccine is developed for it, since curbs "lead to depression and tensions in the society", the Tehran Times reported. 

"Until we obtain a vaccine that is effective and get a sufficient quantity of it [...] we will be confronting this situation," Rouhani said, adding that continuing to observe health protocols must remain a top priority for Iranian citizens.

 

9 August: Saudi Arabia plans phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trials

Tests are being planned for Riyadh, Dammam and Mecca as Mena case tally tops 1.3 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,309,793 on 9 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC comprise 50.3 per cent of all regional cases.

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of cases in the GCC at 287,262. To date, 250,440 recoveries and 3,130 deaths have been confirmed in the kingdom.

On 8 August, the Saudi health ministry said an action plan is being developed to implement a clinical trial for the third phase of a vaccine against the coronavirus, in cooperation with the Chinese company Cansino.

The first and second phases of the trial were conducted in China. Studies in Saudi Arabia will target at least 5,000 healthy volunteers.

Work is under way to start the trials in Riyadh, Dammam and Mecca.

The update follows the UAE's announcement last week regarding the third phase progress of its Covid-19 vaccine trial.

The country, which has confirmed 62,300 cases to date, with 56,245 recoveries and 356 deaths, has also upsized its economic support package this month.

The UAE's Central Bank has expanded its Targeted Economic Support Scheme after reviewing the existing thresholds of the Net Stable Funding (NSFR) and the Advances to Stable Resources (ASRR) prudential ratios.

Requirements for the structural liquidity position of banks have been temporarily relaxed.

The changes affect the NSFR, which is mandatory for the five largest UAE banks, and the ASRR, which is applicable to all other banks, including foreign branches. 

 

6 August: UAE's Covid-19 vaccine trials enter new phase

Inactivated vaccine testing enters next stage as Mena case tally tops 1.27 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,275,360 on 6 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the wider Mena region, excluding the GCC and Iran, account for 24.3 per cent of the total case number.

The GCC's six countries comprise 50.8 per cent of all cases reported in the Mena region.

In the UAE, 61,606 cases have been confirmed to date, with 55,385 recoveries and 353 deaths.

The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention is ready to begin the world's first Phase 3 clinical trials of an inactivated vaccine to combat Covid-19.

The vaccine was developed by Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare and Sinopharm CNBG, the world’s sixth largest vaccine manufacturer.

The third phase follow the success of the first two phases of tests conducted by Sinopharm in China, which resulted in all volunteers generating antibodies after two doses in 28 days.

Abu Dhabi's senior-most health officials have received the second dose of the inactivated vaccine.

Around 15,000 volunteers are needed to conclude the scientific research phase, and to progress to taking the vaccine to market.

 

5 August: Covid-19 restrictions return in parts of Mena

Jordan delays airport reopening as two Moroccan provinces are locked down to curb the spread

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,275,360 on 6 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the wider Mena region, excluding the GCC and Iran, account for 24.3 per cent of the total case number.

The GCC's six countries comprise 50.8 per cent of all cases reported in the Mena region.

In the UAE, 61,606 cases have been confirmed to date, with 55,385 recoveries and 353 deaths.

The UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention is ready to begin the world's first Phase 3 clinical trials of an inactivated vaccine to combat Covid-19.

The vaccine was developed by Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare and Sinopharm CNBG, the world’s sixth largest vaccine manufacturer.

The third phase follow the success of the first two phases of tests conducted by Sinopharm in China, which resulted in all volunteers generating antibodies after two doses in 28 days.

Abu Dhabi's senior-most health officials have received the second dose of the inactivated vaccine.

Around 15,000 volunteers are needed to conclude the scientific research phase, and to progress to taking the vaccine to market.

4 August: UAE marks third consecutive day without Covid-19 death

The number of new cases is reducing in the country even as Mena cases cross the 1.25 million case mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,253,089 on 4 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Collectively, countries in the GCC account for 51.2 per cent of all infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia has the GCC's highest number of cases, with 280,093 infections confirmed to date, alongside 242,055 recoveries and 2,949 deaths.

Meanwhile, the UAE has reported 61,163 cases of Covid-19, with 54,863 recoveries and 351 deaths.

The country announced 164 new cases of Covid-19 on 3 August, marking its lowest figure for daily new cases since 1 April.

No new deaths were reported in the country either on the day, marking three consecutive days of no fatalities due to Covid-19 complications in the country.

On the same day, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, held the first physical UAE cabinet meeting since February.

Sheikh Mohammed said regular cabinet meetings would resume in August instead of September due to unusual circumstances posed by Covid-19.

Several councils were restructured during the meeting, and new appointments were also confirmed. Sheikh Mohammed said the government’s formation during the coming period was also discussed, as were "the most important new changes to keep pace with the priorities of the upcoming phase".

Few wider Mena countries have been able to replicate the UAE's success in terms of curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Algeria together account for 23.9 per cent (299,183) of all confirmed cases in the Mena region.

 

3 August: Covid-19 cases cross 1.24 million-mark in Mena

GCC cases account for 51.4 per cent of all regional infections, with Iran comprising 24.9 per cent

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,243,659 on 3 August, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 51.4 per cent of all cases in the Mena region, while Iran makes up 24.9 per cent of Mena infections.

The UAE's and Iran's foreign ministers conducted rare talks earlier this week to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to contain the coronavirus.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reviewed their countries respective efforts “to contain the repercussions” of Covid-19 during a video call to exchange Eid al-Adha greetings.

To date, Iran has reported 309,437 cases of Covid-19, with 268,102 recoveries and 17,190 deaths. The UAE has confirmed 60,999 cases, with 54,615 recoveries and 351 deaths so far.

According to data by the UAE's Central Bank, local banks had withdrawn AED43.6bn of the regulator's AED50bn Targeted Economic Support Scheme stimulus package launched to counter the impact of Covid-19 as of 18 July.

Banks used 95 per cent of these funds (AED41.42bn) to postpone loan payments for sectors most affected by Covid-19.

Economic stimulus measures have also been stepped up in the wider Mena region.

Over the Eid al-Adha weekend, Morocco's King Mohammed VI announced a plan to inject MBD120bn ($12.8bn) in the local economy to support small- and medium-sized businesses.

The package represents 11 per cent of the local economy, and the king said the scheme would "place Morocco at the forefront of the most enterprising countries in terms of post-crisis stimulus packages".

“However, I must say, in all frankness, that the repercussions of this health crisis will be harsh, notwithstanding our efforts to reduce its impacts,” he added, according to local media.

To date, Morocco has confirmed 25,537 cases of Covid-19, with 18,435 recoveries and 382 deaths.

Countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, account for 23.7 per cent of all regional infections.

 

28 July: Covid-19 lockdowns return ahead of Eid al-Adha

Regional countries look to curb non-essential movement as Mena case tally crosses 1.17 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,177,865 on 28 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The six GCC countries collectively account for 52.5 per cent of all confirmed cases, while countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, make up 22.6 per cent of all cases.

Ahead of the Eid al-Adha festivities due to begin later this week, several Mena nations have clamped down on non-compliance with health precautions and are reimposing lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus. 

After Algeria confirmed closures on 26 July, Lebanon, which has confirmed 3,882 cases to date, with 1,709 recoveries and 51 deaths, is reintroducing a lockdown later this week.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan slammed the lack of compliance with precautionary measures in the wider population, and confirmed that the country would reimpose a two-week lockdown from 30 July.

He was quoted as saying the community outbreak of the disease was beginning to take a “dangerous turn” and he regretted “the lack of community discipline and disregard for all preventive measures imposed on people.”

In Morocco, travel to and from Tangier, Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Casablanca, Berrechid, Settat and Marrakesh has been banned to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Exemptions include people with urgent medical requirements, select workers and the transportation of goods and commodities. 

On 21 July,  Oman announced that a two-week curfew will be reimposed in the sultanate from 25 July as case numbers continue to grow.

Morocco has confirmed 20,887 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 16,553 recoveries and 316 deaths.

Iraq is also mulling tightening restrictions after the Eid al-Adha break this weekend.

An official from Iraq's Ministry of Health told local newspaper Al-Sabaah that implementing a partial ban may continue to be necessary after Eid al-Adha holidays as case numbers grow in the country.

So far, 112,585 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Iraq, with 77,144 recoveries and 4,458 deaths due to Covid-19.

 

27 July: Algeria to reimpose Covid-19 lockdown

North African country's restrictions come as Middle East and North Africa tally of Covid-19 cases crosses 1.16 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,166,339 on 27 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 52.6 per cent of all regional cases.

Recovery rates in the GCC states also outperform those in the wider Mena region. In the UAE, 58,913 cases have been confirmed to date, with 52,182 recoveries and 344 deaths reported so far.

On 26 July, it was announced that government offices in the emirate of Ajman would return to full capacity on 3 August.

The decision includes the cancellation of exemptions for specific categories of staff from returning to work. It also exempts employees with chronic diseases, provided that they can present a medical report approved by medical authorities, which must be subsequently approved by the emirate’s medical committee.

Case numbers are growing in the wider Mena region, which makes up 22.4 per cent of the total 1.16 million cases reported regionally.

Partial lockdown measures will be implemented for 15 days in 29 Algerian provinces starting tomorrow to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Restrictions include a curfew from 8pm-5am, as well as a ban on road traffic from and to the provinces.

To date, Algeria has confirmed 27,357 cases of Covid-19, with 18,088 recoveries and 1,155 deaths.

 

26 July: Saudi land borders reopen as Covid-19 curbs ease

Kingdom's shared borders with the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain open after four months of closure

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,154,916 on 26 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC collectively account for 52.8 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia continues to have the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the GCC, with 264,973 confirmed infections, 217,782 recoveries and 2,703 deaths.

On 23 July, Saudi citizens, their immediate family members and their domestic staff were allowed to enter the kingdom by land from Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE without obtaining prior authorisation.

It marks the reopening of land borders between Saudi Arabia and its three GCC neighbours four months after land travel was closed to curb Covid-19. 

With 288,839 cases, Iran alone accounts for 25 per cent of the Mena total.

To date, Iran has confirmed 251,319 recoveries and 15,484 deaths due to Covid-19.

Wider Mena nations including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Morocco and Lebanon together comprise 22.2 per cent of all regional infections.

 

23 July: Mena Covid-19 cases exceed 1.1 million

GCC countries have 53.1 per cent of all infections confirmed in the Mena region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,117,982 on 23 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC now account for 53.1 per cent of all confirmed Covid-19 infections in Mena.

With 281,413 confirmed cases, 244,840 recoveries and 14,853 deaths, Iran has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

It is followed by Saudi Arabia, where 258,156 cases have been confirmed to date, alongside 210,398 recoveries and 2,601 deaths.

Qatar is the Mena region's third worst-hit country for Covid-19 infections. 

So far, 107,871 cases have been reported in Qatar, with 104,641 recoveries and 163 deaths.

On 22 July, Qatar announced additional information about travellers to the country.

Travellers from low-risk countries must undergo a second test and their quarantine period will end if results come back negative.

However, if the traveller tests positive, they will be transferred to a government facility for isolation.

Qatar's list of low-risk travel markets currently comprises 40 countries, including China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Greece, Algeria, Turkey, Morocco, Canada and Switzerland.

 

22 July: Oman curfew returns amid Covid-19 case spike

Sultanate to resume restrictions from 25 July as infections cross 1.1 million-mark in Mena region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,105,213 on 22 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 53.2 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

Iran alone comprises 25.2 per cent of regional cases, while wider Mena nations make up 21.5 per cent of the total.

Of the 1.1 million confirmed cases, 23 per cent, or 255,825 infections, have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia. To date, the kingdom has also reported 207,259 recoveries and 2,557 deaths.

Saudi Arabia has prepared plans for a scaled-back Hajj pilgrimage this year.

Minister of Hajj & Umrah, Muhammad Saleh Benten, said: "Plans include the provision of the best health services and the most appropriate crowd control, strictly in line with the precautionary measures and preventive protocols formulated by the Ministry of Health to ensure full safety of pilgrims from the coronavirus pandemic."

Case numbers are growing in Oman, which has reported 69,887 infections to date, with 46,608 recoveries and 337 deaths.

A country-wide lockdown will be reimposed in Oman for a fortnight from 25 July to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The committee tasked with the oversight of Covid-19 management in the sultanate said: "In view of the increase in the number of people infected with Covid-19 and to limit its spread, the supreme committee on Covid-19 has decided to close all governorates between 25 July and 8 August.

"It has also been decided to prevent all types of movements and close public places and shops during this period between 7pm and 6am, with intensified patrols and points of control in the daytime."

 

21 July: Jordan to reopen airports as Covid-19 cases drop

Countries chart economic recovery plans as Mena Covid-19 tally nears 1.1 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,092,858 on 21 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

GCC countries account for 53.3 per cent of all confirmed cases in the Mena region.

With 253,349 confirmed cases, including 203,259 recoveries and 2,523 deaths, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the GCC.

Iran, with 276,202 cases – including 240,087 recoveries and 14,405 deaths – makes up 25.3 per cent of all Mena cases.

Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Algeria together account for 21.4 per cent (233,978 infections) of all confirmed cases in the Mena region.

To date, Egypt has reported 88,402 cases of Covid-19, with 28,924 recoveries and 4,352 deaths.

The Egyptian parliament on 20 July approved a law cutting the net monthly income of all employees in the public and private sectors by 1 per cent to counter the impact of Covid-19. The draft bill excluded employees whose monthly salaries do not exceed £E2,000.

Savings are to be deposited into an account at the Central Bank of Egypt and allocated to support economic sectors and small- and medium-sized enterprises affected by the global pandemic, as well as pay financial subsidies to workers in these sectors.

Jordan, which has among the lowest rates of the new coronavirus infection in the Mena region, outlined economic recovery plans.

The Hashemite kingdom has announced 1,223 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 1,028 recoveries and 11 deaths.

On 20 July, the Jordanian government amended a law to allow employers to reduce the salaries of their employees by 20 per cent instead of the previously approved 30 per cent.

Minister of Labour Nidal al-Batayneh reportedly said salary cuts may only be implemented for employees in the worst pandemic-hit sectors.

Airports in Jordan are also set to reopen next week, Roya News reports.

PM Omar Razzaz said Amman planned to bring back Jordanian expatriates without exposing residents to risks, adding: “The priority will be the return of Jordanian children from abroad.”

 

20 July: Bahrain to extend visit visas amid Covid-19

Manama to extend validity of visit visas for three months to reduce the impact of Covid-19

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,080,609 on 20 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC collectively make up 53.4 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Iran alone accounts for 25.3 per cent of regional Covid-19 cases.

Days after President Hassan Rouhani said that 25 million Iranians may have Covid-19, health authorities clarified that the figure was based on serological blood tests that measure exposure to the illness and that cannot be relied on to show the current state of disease.

Rouhani said on 18 July that 14,000 Iranians may have died due to the illness, based on an “estimated scenario” from a health ministry research report.

Economies in the Mena region have resumed activity as governments seek to restore balance and plug the fiscal losses brought about by the new coronavirus.

Covid-19 recovery rates remain strong in most of the GCC region. Bahrain, for example, has reported 36,422 to date, with 32,372 recoveries and 126 deaths.

On 19 July, the country's Nationality, Passports & Residence Affairs agency said it would extend the validity of all valid and expired visit visas for an additional three months, from 21 July until 21 October 2020.

Visitors who intend to stay in the country beyond 21 October will be allowed to apply through the eVisa portal to renew their visit visas.

 

19 July: Rouhani says 25 million Iranians may have Covid-19

President warns actual case numbers may be higher than reported

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,069,614 on 19 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 53.5 per cent of all confirmed infections in the region, while Iran makes up 25.4 per cent of total cases.

To date, Iran has confirmed 271,606 cases of Covid-19, with 235,300 recoveries and 13,979 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 18 July that more than 25 million Iranians may have contracted the coronavirus and 14,000 may have died due to the illness, based on an “estimated scenario” from a health ministry research report.

"There is the possibility that between 30 and 35 million other people will be at risk," Rouhani added, according to a Reuters report. He did not address the discrepancy between the estimated and actual case numbers.

Restrictions have been reimposed for a week in the capital Tehran, including banning religious and cultural functions, closing boarding schools, cafes, indoor pools, amusement parks and zoos.

From 19 July, 22 cities and towns in the southwestern Khuzestan province will be under a three-day lockdown, Reuters reported.

Wider Mena countries comprise 21.1 per cent of all confirmed infections in the region.

Algeria has confirmed 22,549 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 15,744 recoveries and 1,068 deaths.

On 18 July, the government said it had formed a committee to assess the true economic impact of the pandemic on the Algerian economy.

The health crisis and declining oil prices have led to public sector losses worth about $1bn. Structural crises inherited from the previous government were also blamed for the economic challenges facing Algiers.

 

16 July: Iran eyes remdesivir production as Covid-19 cases rise

Health minister says domestic production of anti-viral drug to begin next week as Tehran museums close again

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,032,927 on 16 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 53.6 per cent of all regional infections, with the six Gulf countries reporting a total of 553,989 cases to date.

Of these, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of confirmations, with 240,474 cases, 183,048 recoveries and 2,325 deaths.

Cases are also growing in Oman, where the total number of confirmed infections reached 61,247 on 16 July, from 50,207 as of 9 July.

Oman has reported 39,038 recoveries to date, in addition to 281 deaths due to Covid-19.

The sultanate had recorded 32,005 recoveries and 233 deaths on 9 July.

Iran makes up 25.6 per cent of all confirmed Covid-19 infections in Mena.

The regional epicentre of Covid-19 has, to date, reported 264,561 cases of the coronavirus-caused illness, with 227,561 recoveries and 13,410 deaths.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on 15 July that domestic production of the anti-viral agent remdesivir would begin in Iran from next week.

On the same day, museums in Tehran closed again for one week as virus numbers rise amid fears of a second wave of the coronavirus in Iran.

 

15 July: Riyadh eyes loan deferments to spur Covid-19 recovery

Saudi Arabia to defer $178.6m in private sector loans for 2020 as pandemic continues to spread in Mena region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,020,375 on 15 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 53.7 per cent of all Mena cases, with 547,729 infections confirmed to date.

Within the GCC, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of confirmed infections with a tally of 237,803. 

To date, 177,560 recoveries have been recorded in the kingdom, with 2,283 deaths.

On 14 July, the Corporate Sustainability Programme was launched by the Ministry of Finance to support the deferment of loan installments for the private sector. 

Worth SR670m ($178.6m), this deferment covers more than 192 establishments across sectors such as education, health and industry. 

The initiative also aims to support projects in the education, health and real estate development sectors by accelerating approvals and disbursement of loans and easing requirements.

Outside the Gulf, Iran accounts for 25.7 per cent of all cases in Mena, while other regional countries account for 20.6 per cent of all infections.

 

14 July: Covid-19 cases cross one million mark in Mena

Socioeconomic risks and policies prevail as virus numbers continue rapid growth in most regional countries

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,007,832 on 14 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

With 541,488 cases, countries in the GCC account for 53.7 per cent of all infections confirmed in the Mena region.

Meanwhile, Iran's 259,652 cases comprise 25.8 per cent of the regional total.

In the GCC, Saudi Arabia has 235,111 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 169,842 recoveries and 2,243 deaths reported to date.

On 13 July, the kingdom's Ministry of Interior said individuals entering Mina, Muzdalifah or Arafat without a permit between 19 July and 2 August, including during Hajj, would be fined SR10,000, with the amount to double if the violation is repeated.

In neighbouring Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa yesterday issued Decree-Law 22/2020 to inject BD177.3m into this year’s state budget to deal with emergency expenditures incurred amid Covid-19.

Also approved was a memorandum recommending the temporary suspension of the deductions of oil revenues allocated to the Future Generations Reserve Fund until the end of the fiscal year 2020, the withdrawal of $450m as a one-time instance from the fund, and approving the issuance of a decree-law disposing part of the fund.

The measures are intended to support the general budget during the remainder of 2020 fiscal year in Bahrain, where 55,198 total cases, including 45,513 recoveries and 334 deaths, have been reported so far.

Countries outside the GCC and Iran account for 20.5 per cent of confirmed cases in the Mena region.

In Morocco, 15,936 cases have been confirmed to date, with 12,934 recoveries and 255 deaths.

Tangier has been locked down and is to be isolated as case figures spike in the northern city, which accounts for roughly 20 per cent of all Moroccan Covid-19 cases.

Financial efforts to contend with Covid-19's impact are under way in Tunisia, where 1,302 cases have been confirmed to date, with 1,082 recoveries and 50 deaths.

Tunisia is negotiating delaying its debt repayments with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and Italy, and plans to arrange a new deal with the Washington-based IMF in four months.

Its deferral request comes as the Tunisian economy braces for budget deficit to widen to 7 per cent of the GDP, Finance Minister Nizar Yaich said on 13 July.

 
13 July: Covid-19 cases near 995,000-mark in Mena

Iran rules out economic closures as fears persist over second wave of infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 994,448 on 13 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 53.8 per cent of cases in the Mena region, while Iran comprises 25.9 per cent.

To date, Iran has confirmed 257,303 Covid-19 cases, with 219,993 recoveries and 12,829 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 11 July that the Iranian economy would have to remain open despite the growing number of cases in the country.

“We must ban ceremonies and gatherings all over the country, whether it be wakes, weddings or parties,” Rouhani said.

“Now is not the time for festivals or seminars,” he said, adding that even university entrance exams may have to be suspended.

Within the GCC, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of cases, with 232,259 infections confirmed so far.

The kingdom has also reported 167,138 recoveries and 2,223 deaths to date.

The number of critical cases is reducing in Saudi Arabia, where 50 per cent of patients in intensive care units are over the age of 60.

“According to the graphic analysis, it’s been noted that the rate of patients in critical care units is stabilising in the past two weeks and has seen a slight decrease of 0.4 per cent this week," health ministry spokesperson Mohammed al-Abd al-Ali said.

"The number of patients in critical care units is between 2,000 and 2,500.”

 

12 July: UAE visa rules updated as Dubai pledges $408m

Emirate commits further financial relief as Mena Covid-19 cases cross 981,770-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 981,770 on 12 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 53.8 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

The wider Mena region, excluding Iran, makes up 20.2 per cent of all confirmed cases.

Iran's cases comprise 26 per cent of the total infections in the Mena region.

In the UAE, 54,453 cases have been confirmed to date, with 44,648 recoveries and 331 deaths.

Visa rules were updated in the country over the weekend. A three-month grace period has been announced for GCC passport holders and UAE residents to renew their visa and residency documents.

A one-month grace period was also announced to renew visas from the date of arrival to the UAE for GCC passport holders and UAE residents who have spent less than six months out of the country.

The decision reverses a previously announced move to extend the validity of visas and entry permits for those in the UAE from 1 March until end-December.

On 11 July, the Dubai government announced a stimulus package of AED1.5bn ($408.4m) for sectors including hospitality, construction and education, raising the total value of state relief to AED6.3bn.

Benefits announced for construction include the expediting of payments to contractors and the return of guarantees for activities related to commercial licences.

 

9 July: Moroccan borders to reopen as Covid-19 curbs eased

Air and sea travel permitted from 14 July in Morocco even as Mena's Covid-19 tally goes past 941,000-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 941,425 on 9 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 53.9 per cent of all Covid-19 cases confirmed in the Mena region to date.

Within the Gulf, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of infections (220,144), followed by Qatar (101,533).

Wider Middle East countries, excluding Iran, account for about 19.7 per cent of all infections confirmed in the Mena region.

Morocco has confirmed 14,771 cases so far, with 11,316 recoveries and 242 deaths.

The country is now preparing to reopen its air and sea borders next week after months of closure to curb Covid-19.

Air and sea borders will open for Moroccan citizens living abroad and foreign citizens living in Morocco on 14 July.

Passengers will be required to present, before boarding, a PCR test conducted less than 48 hours before the trip, as well as a serological test.

Ferry rides will also be scheduled departing from France and Italy, with similar pre-boarding requirements as air travel.

 
8 July: Covid-19 cases cross 927,500-mark in Mena

Restrictions tightened in Libya as Iraq reopens border with Iran for foodstuff trade

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 927,502 on 8 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54 per cent of all regional cases, with 501,216 infections confirmed to date. 

Iran, the regional epicentre of the new coronavirus, has confirmed 245,688 infections so far, making up 26.5 per cent of the Mena total.

The country has reported 207,000 recoveries from Covid-19 and 11,931 deaths.

Wider Mena countries, excluding Iran, account for about 19.5 per cent of all regional cases, with 180,598 confirmed infections.

Egypt has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the wider Mena region, with 77,279 infections, 21,718 recoveries and 3,489 deaths confirmed so far.

Cases are also growing in Iraq and Libya, which are among the regional countries that have low levels of compliance with health precautions to curb Covid-19.

Iraq's southern Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran has been partially reopened for the trade of foodstuff after three months of closure, allowing in some 500 trucks from Iran a week, Arab News reports.

In Libya, the Tripoli-based government yesterday announced an extension of its curfew until 17 July.

A 24-hour weekend curfew and the ban on inter-city movement continue to be enforced as social distancing and the use of masks is ignored by the majority of the population, newspaper Libya Herald reports.

 

7 July: Oman plans national survey to curb Covid-19

Sultanate's nationwide programme comes as Mena case numbers cross 900,000-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 913,864 on 7 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54 per cent of all infections confirmed in Mena, with 494,329 cases reported to date.

Saudi Arabia makes up 213,716 of these cases, with 149,634 recoveries and 1,968 deaths.

On 6 July, the country introduced new guidelines for pilgrims attending Hajj this year.

Entry to the holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat without permits will not be permitted from 19 July until 2 August. 

Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited as well, and the mosque’s carpets are to be removed to allow pilgrims to use their personal prayer rugs instead.

Registrations have also been opened for expat residents in the kingdom to register as pilgrims, the majority of whom (70 per cent) will be non-Saudis this year.

Efforts to curb and understand the spread of Covid-19 are also under way in Oman, which has reported 47,735 cases to date, alongside 29,146 recoveries and 218 deaths.

Earlier this week, the sultanate confirmed its Ministry of Health will conduct a country-wide Covid-19 survey covering locals and expats from 12 July.

The survey will be carried out in four rounds over 10 five-day weeks, with testing to be conducted randomly. 

Survey results will be used to decide when movement restrictions can be eased and all activities can resume. Oman hopes the initiative will also reveal the presence of antibodies in the population. These findings would then help determine the prevalence of Covid-19 and its cumulative infection level in the country.

 

6 June: Dubai tourism to reopen as Covid-19 recovery sought

Mena region has confirmed more than 899,550 infections to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 899,554 on 6 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 486,334 confirmed Covid-19 infections to date, while Iran alone has 240,438 cases.

Saudi Arabia accounts for 209,509 cases in the GCC region, with 145,236 recoveries and 1,916 deaths confirmed due to the illness to date.

The kingdom's interior ministry confirmed on 5 July the three-month extension of exit and return visas issued to foreign residents who were either unable to leave the kingdom or to return from abroad because of the closure of borders, and residence permits of expats outside the country whose validity expired during the lockdown.

Final exit visas of foreign residents and the visit visas of foreigners who were unable to leave the kingdom before they expired will also be extended.

Saudi Arabia's decision to extend visas comes as part of its efforts to revitalise economic recovery.

Similar efforts are also under way in the UAE, where starting 7 July, tourists will be permitted to return to Dubai.

Moreover, the UAE government has also been restructured to be more agile in the post-pandemic economy. 

The Ministry of Industry & Advanced Technology will be created as part of the UAE government, and the existing ministries for energy and infrastructure will be merged, it was announced on 5 July.

Three senior ministerial appointments will be made at the Ministry of Economy, and Omar al-Olama, currently the UAE’s minister of state for artificial intelligence, will take on the newly created post of minister of state for digital economy, artificial intelligence and applications for teleworking.

The UAE has confirmed 51,540 Covid-19 cases to date, with 40,297 recoveries and 323 deaths.

 

5 July: Covid-19 cases top 885,600-mark in Mena

UAE notes surge in cases as testing capacity is ramped up amid loosening of restrictions

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 885,590 on 5 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54.1 per cent of all confirmed infections in the region.

Case numbers surged in the UAE on 4 July, when 71,000 tests were said to have revealed 716 new cases of Covid-19.

The UAE also confirmed 704 recoveries and three deaths on 4 July, taking the total number of cases to 50,857 with 39,857 recoveries and 321 deaths in total.

The figures are understood to have increased as testing capacity ramps up in the country amid the loosening of restrictions.

Outside the GCC, Iran accounts for 26.9 per cent of all Mena cases.

To date, the country has confirmed 237,878 cases of the new coronavirus, with 198,949 recoveries and 11,408 deaths.

Starting today, wearing masks is mandated in the country as fears of a second wave loom large in Iran.

Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols will be shut for a week. Government employees that do not wear masks will be considered absentees.

 

29 June: Covid-19 cases near 800,000-mark in Mena

Algeria to keep land, sea and air borders closed until Covid-19 crisis is over

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 798,250 on 29 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 433,500 confirmed infections to date, makes up 54.3 per cent of all infections in the Mena region.

Iran has confirmed 222,669 Covid-19 cases to date, making up 27.9 per cent of the Mena total. 

The rest of the Mena region has 142,081 cases, most of which are in Egypt.

To date, Egypt has confirmed 65,188 cases of Covid-19, with 17,539 recoveries and 2,789 deaths.

Neighbouring Libya has confirmed 762 Covid-19 cases with 196 recoveries and 21 deaths, while Algeria has reported 13,273 cases with 9,371 recoveries and 897 deaths.

On 28 June, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said Algeria would keep its land, air and sea borders closed until the end of the Covid-19 crisis.

He added during the cabinet meeting that firmer measures would be taken against citizens who do not respect preventive measures.

 

28 June: Covid-19 cases top 785,000-mark in Mena

Ayatollah Khamenei warns of further economic decline if public flouts precautionary measures

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 784,432 on 28 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 426,138 confirmed infections, accounts for 54.3 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in the Mena region, while Iran makes up 28.1 per cent of all regional cases.

Iran spike

Iran has confirmed 220,180 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 180,661 recoveries and 10,364 deaths.

On 27 June, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the country's economy would worsen if Covid-19 spreads unchecked, and warned the public to avoid negligence.

The Iranian rial has dropped to record lows against the US dollar following the temporary economic closures, border bans and oil export stoppages imposed in the country.

Cases started to grow in Iran in mid-May, before which numbers were contained due to movement restrictions.

 

25 June: Covid-19 cases near 742,000-mark in Mena

IMF downgrades outlook for Saudi Arabia, the Mena's second-worst-hit country for Covid-19 infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 740,873 on 25 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has confirmed 403,163 infections to date, with Iran's tally reaching 212,501.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, has reported 172,096 recoveries and 9,996 deaths due to the illness so far.

Saudi Arabia has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

To date, the kingdom has confirmed 167,267 infections of Covid-19, with 112,797 recoveries and 1,387 deaths.

The Washington-based IMF on 24 June cut the economic forecast for Saudi Arabia during 2020.

The IMF expects the kingdom's GDP to contract by 6.8 per cent instead of its April estimate of 2.3 per cent.

 

24 June: Covid-19 cases top 726,620-mark in Mena

Oman's Sultan Haitham issues orders ratifying emergency interest-free loan for sectors impacted by Covid-19

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 726,618 on 24 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 395,895 confirmed cases of the illness, while the rest of the Mena region, excluding Iran, has 120,753 confirmed cases.

Saudi Arabia accounts for roughly 41.5 per cent of all confirmed cases in the GCC, with 164,144 infections reported to date, alongside 109,885 recoveries and 1,346 deaths.

Qatar accounts for around 22.6 per cent of all GCC cases, followed by the UAE (11.5 per cent), Kuwait (10.4 per cent), Oman (8.2 per cent) and Bahrain (5.8 per cent). 

Oman has confirmed 32,394 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 17,279 recoveries and 140 deaths.

On 23 June, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq issued orders to ratify an emergency interest-free loan for sectors most impacted by Covid-19.

The orders cover male and female entrepreneurs, especially holders of the Riyada card, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), those who work for their own business, and beneficiaries of the Oman Development Bank loans and Al-Raffd Fund.

 

23 June: Covid-19 cases exceed 713,000 in Mena

Saudi Arabia confirms plans to host Hajj as Bahrain rolls out airport biosecurity programme

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 713,172 on 23 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 388,485 cases reported to date, accounts for 54.5 per cent of all infections in the Mena region, while Iran's 207,525 cases make up 29.1 per cent of all regional infections.

Saudi Arabia has the Mena region's second-highest number of Covid-19 cases, with 161,005 cases confirmed to date.

So far, 105,175 recoveries have been reported in Saudi Arabia, with 1,307 deaths due to the illness.

On 22 June, Riyadh confirmed plans to host a limited Hajj gathering in 2020, with only residents of the kingdom permitted to take part. 

The biosecurity risks associated with Covid-19 have also led to improvements at Bahrain International airport, with new protocols launched to ensure passenger safety at the facility.

Bahrain Airport Company says the new safety programme follows guidelines issued by the country's civil aviation authority, and is designed based on standards recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the Bahraini Health Ministry.

The new health guidelines include mandatory face masks and temperature scanning, social distancing measures and limited access to airport areas to ensure biosecurity protocols are being followed.

 

22 June: Covid-19 cases near 700,000-mark in Mena

Further easing of restrictions announced in the UAE as regional countries emerge from lockdowns

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region exceeded 699,085 on 22 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 380,791 confirmed infections, while Iran alone has confirmed 204,952 cases to date.

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of cases in the GCC, with the kingdom confirming 157,612 cases to date, with 101,130 recoveries and 1,267 deaths.

The UAE, meanwhile, has confirmed 44,925 cases to date, with 32,415 recoveries and 302 deaths.

Restrictions are being further eased in the UAE. Dubai airports will be permitted to receive tourists from 7 July, provided travellers can present a recent Covid-19 negative test result or undergo testing at the airport.

Residents stranded abroad and holding Dubai-issued visas may start returning from 22 June, and citizens and residents are permitted to travel abroad from 23 June, provided the country they are travelling to has agreed to receive them.

 

21 June: Covid-19 cases cross 686,700-mark in Mena

Case numbers cross 200,000-mark in Iran and 154,200-mark in Saudi Arabia as kingdom resumes activity today

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 686,701 on 21 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 374,296 confirmed cases, accounts for 54.5 per cent of all infections in the Mena region, while Iran alone accounts for 29.5 per cent.

The number of confirmed cases in Iran reached 202,584 on 21 June, with 161,384 recoveries and 9,507 deaths.

Iran may make it mandatory to wear masks in public places and covered spaces, President Hassan Rouhani said according to Reuters.

Provinces in Iran will be allowed to decide the level of restrictions they impose, Hossein Erfani, head of the Health Ministry’s contagious disease care department, reportedly said on 19 June.

Case numbers also grew in Saudi Arabia over the weekend to reach 154,233, with 98,917 recoveries and 1,230 deaths.

Saudi Arabia will resume economic activities today, with domestic flights allowed to operate and mosques in Mecca reopened. 

However, international flights, travel through sea and land points, and Umrah pilgrimage and visits to holy sites remain suspended.

 

18 June: Covid-19 cases cross 645,000-mark in Mena

Restrictions set to ease in the UAE as more activities resume and travel is allowed from 23 June

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 645,318 on 18 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54.4 per cent of all Mena infections, with 351,345 cases confirmed in the six GCC states to date.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, has confirmed 195,051 cases so far, accounting for 30.2 per cent of all confirmed cases in the Mena region.

Restrictions are being eased across parts of the Mena region where case numbers are declining.

The most notable relaxation of rules is being rolled out in the UAE, where test figures have crossed the 3 million-mark. 

Adults up to the age of 70 can now enter malls in the country, but the lower age limit of children under 12 is still in force for emirates other than Dubai.

Home care services will also resume in Dubai, and public libraries, private museums and art galleries will reopen.

Abu Dhabi’s cultural sites will reopen from 24 June, and next week will also see the relaxation of travel bans in the country.

From 23 June, citizens and residents in the UAE can travel to certain countries. Destinations have been divided into three categories: low-risk (no restrictions), medium risk (travel for specific purposes) and high-risk countries (no travel).

People over 70 years of age will not be allowed to travel and those with chronic diseases are advised to avoid travelling. International medical insurance covering the destination country is necessary for all travellers.

Individuals must also follow 14-day quarantine measures upon their return. The UAE government said this period could decrease to seven days for travellers arriving from countries with lower risk, or for professionals in critical sectors.

 

17 June: Mena has more than 631,350 Covid-19 cases

GCC cases account for 54.4 per cent of all confirmed Mena infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 631,352 on 17 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54.4 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region, while Iran makes up 30.5 per cent of all regional cases.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 136,315 Covid-19 cases to date, with 89,540 recoveries and 1,052 deaths.

On 16 June, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund launched an SR3.7bn ($1bn) stimulus package to support more than 500 small- and medium-sized industrial companies affected by Covid-19.

The fund will offer the deferral and restructuring of loan payments and lines-of-credit to partly finance operating expenses for up to three months.

Funding has also been made available to wider Mena region countries by the World Bank.

The Washington-headquartered institution confirmed a $400m loan to help Egypt revamp its healthcare infrastructure.

The World Bank has also approved the disbursement of $175m to support anti-coronavirus efforts in Tunisia as part of the Emergency Development Policy Operation.

 

16 June: Covid-19 cases top 618,000 in Mena

Bahrain takes further step to reduce economic strain with BD177m budget for emergency expenses

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 617,965 on 16 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region has confirmed 335,528 infections to date, accounting for 54 per cent of the regional total.

Iran, with 189,876 confirmed cases, makes up 31 per cent of all Covid-19 infections in the Mena region.

Outside Iran and the GCC, Syria (177 cases), Libya (467 cases), Yemen (844 cases) and Jordan (979 cases) have the lowest number of reported Covid-19 infections to date.

In the GCC, Bahrain has the fewest confirmed infections. To date, the country has confirmed 19,013 Covid-19 cases, with 13,267 recoveries and 46 deaths.

Bahrain's Ministerial Committee for Financial & Economic Affairs & Fiscal Balance has been asked to review studies and initiatives submitted by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Bahraini Businessmen's Association on the sectors that have been affected by Covid-19.

On 15 June, the Bahraini cabinet also endorsed, based on a recommendation by the Government Executive Committee, a draft decree on including BD177m in the general state budget for 2020 for emergency expenses required during Covid-19.

 

15 June: Covid-19 cases cross 600,000-mark in Mena

Saudi Arabia warns infection rate could grow if health precautions are not obeyed

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 603,873 on 15 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54.2 per cent of all infections in the Mena region, and Iran makes up 31 per cent of all confirmed cases.

Saudi Arabia reported 4,233 new cases of Covid-19 on 14 June, taking its total tally to 127,541. Of the total number, 41,849 are active cases, of which 1,855 are critical.

Additionally, 2,172 new recoveries and 40 deaths were announced on 14 June, raising total recoveries and deaths in Saudi Arabia to 84,720 and 972 respectively.

Saudi Arabia’s R0 infection rate is between 1.5 and 2.

An R0 of 1 indicates that each infection in the population will cause at least one new case.

The Saudi health ministry's spokesperson Mohammed al-Abd al-Aly said the rate could further increase if health precautions are not adhered to.

He added: “The infection rate decreased to below 1 in May, but it increased in recent days, which indicates the virus is spreading due to mixing with Covid-19-infected individuals."

 

14 June: Covid-19 cases near 600,000-mark in Mena

Regional epicentre Iran may reimpose restrictions if existing precautionary measures are flouted

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 590,139 on 14 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the new coronavirus, accounts for 31.3 per cent of all cases in the Mena region.

The country has confirmed 184,955 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 146,748 recoveries and 8,730 deaths due to the illness.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 13 June that restrictions could be reimposed in the country if existing precautionary regulations are not followed.

The GCC, with 318,970 confirmed infections, accounts for 54 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

The majority of these cases are from Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 123,308 cases so far, with 82,548 recoveries and 932 deaths.

Saudi Arabia's health ministry has launched a campaign to ensure residents are complying with social distancing measures.

Reports also emerged over the weekend that the kingdom may cancel the Hajj pilgrimage to curb the spread of Covid-19.

If implemented, the decision would mark the first time that Hajj has been cancelled since Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932.

 

11 June: Mena has 550,356 Covid-19 cases

Infection numbers approach 300,000-mark in the GCC as Iran spike continues

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 550,356 on 11 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, with 177,938 cases, makes up 32 per cent of all confirmed Covid-19 infections in Mena.

The GCC region, with 295,300 cases, accounts for 54 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia has the GCC's highest number of confirmed Covid-19 infections, totalling 112,288, with 77,954 recoveries and 819 deaths.

Seventy-seven additional mosques are to open in the Al-Jouf region to ensure social distancing between worshipers and help avoid crowding in the province's mosques.

 

10 June: Mena has 537,600 cases of Covid-19

Iran accounts for 32.7 per cent of all cases confirmed to date in the Mena region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 537,595 on 10 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region, with 287,423 cases confirmed to date, accounts for 53.5 per cent of all infections confirmed in the Mena region.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the illness, accounts for 32.7 per cent of all cases confirmed to date in the Mena region.

So far, 175,927 cases have been confirmed in Iran, with 138,457 recoveries and 8,425 deaths reported by the country.

Saudi Arabia has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

To date, the kingdom has confirmed 108,571 cases of the illness, with 76,339 recoveries and 783 deaths reported as of 10 June.

Qatar, the third worst-hit country for Covid-19 in the Mena region, has 71,879 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 47,569 recoveries and 62 deaths to date.

 

9 June: Covid-19 cases top 525,800-mark in Mena

Phased reopening programmes continue as GCC case numbers reach 280,230

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 525,794 on 9 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region, with 280,230 cases, accounts for 53.3 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have among the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the GCC.

To date, Saudi Arabia has confirmed 105,283 cases of Covid-19, with 74,524 recoveries and 746 deaths.

Qatar, meanwhile, has confirmed 70,158 cases with 45,935 recoveries and 57 deaths.

Doha has reportedly developed a four-phased programme to lift all restrictions in its cities, starting 15 June.

Mosques will reopen on the day, UAE newspaper the National reported. Phases 2, 3 and 4 of easing restrictions will begin on 1 July, 1 August and 1 September respectively.

Restaurants will partially reopen under Phase 2, and flights will resume from low-risk countries, as well as malls will reopen with limited capacity, under the third phase.

The final phase will lift restrictions on gatherings such as weddings, and allow the reopening of cinemas.

 

8 June: Mena region has 513,726 Covid-19 cases

Confirmed infection numbers cross 100,000-mark in Saudi Arabia

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 513,726 on 8 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 273,005 confirmed cases to date, accounts for 53.1 per cent of all infections in the Mena region.

Confirmed case numbers crossed the 100,000-mark in Saudi Arabia on 7 June.

To date, the kingdom has confirmed 101,914 Covid-19 cases, with 72,817 recoveries and 712 deaths.

A temporary hospital was opened at Jeddah International Exhibition and Convention Centre on 7 June. 

The hospital comprises 20 beds initially, with a capacity of 500 beds.

Thirty-one clinics for individuals with Covid-19 symptoms have also opened in Riyadh, Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Al-Qassim and Al-Ahsa.

 

7 June: Covid-19 cases cross 500,000-mark in Mena

Regional efforts made to contend with pandemic-related economic challenges

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 501,265 on 7 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 53 per cent of all regional cases with 256,862 infections confirmed to date.

Case numbers in Saudi Arabia are approaching the 100,000-mark.

The kingdom has confirmed 98,869 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 71,791 recoveries and 676 deaths.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior re-imposed a two-week curfew in Jeddah after reviewing the epidemiological situation and the high occupancy rates of the intensive care departments in the city.

Efforts have also been made regionally in the past week to reduce the financial strain of Covid-19. The Washington-based IMF said on 5 June it had agreed on a financial package worth $5.2bn to help Egypt contend with the economic impact of the pandemic.

On the same day, regional lender Arab Monetary Fund agreed to provide loans of $211m to Morocco and $98m to Tunisia to help the North African countries deal with the coronavirus crisis.

 

4 June: Covid-19 cases top 465,000 in Mena

President Rouhani warns of tightened restrictions as fears of second wave hit Iran

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 464,384 on 4 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 245,412 confirmed cases of Covid-19, accounting for 52.8 per cent of all infections in the Mena region.

Regional epicentre Iran has confirmed 160,696 Covid-19 cases to date, with 125,206 recoveries and 8,012 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 3 June that restrictions would be reintroduced if illness peaks again in Iran. 

His announcement comes amid fears that a second wave has hit Iran.

The country recorded its second-highest surge in coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak after 3,117 people tested positive for the virus in 24 hours earlier this week.

Government employees went back to work and mosques resumed daily prayers on 30 May as part of the relaxation of Iran’s lockdown.

 

3 June: Covid-19 cases cross 450,000-mark in Mena

Dubai allows malls and offices to reopen at full capacity as UAE recoveries top 18,700-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 452,581 on 3 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 89,011 infections to date, yesterday opened a mobile laboratory in Medina.

The lab has a daily capacity of 10,000 tests and is manned by 84 medical professionals.

To date, Saudi Arabia has confirmed 65,790 recoveries from Covid-19, with 549 deaths due to the illness.

In the UAE, where 35,788 infections have been confirmed to date, Dubai has furthered the resumption of business activity.

Shopping malls and private businesses have been permitted to operate at full capacity from today.

Malls and companies must operate while outdoor movement is permitted, the timings for which are currently 6am to 11pm. 

The UAE has reported 18,726 recoveries and 269 deaths so far.

 

2 June: Covid-19 cases reach 441,374 in Mena

Regional epicentre Iran's cases cross 150,000-mark as health minister warns of second wave

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 441,374 on 1 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

With 232,623 infections confirmed to date, the GCC accounts for 52.7 per cent of all cases in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia accounts for the majority of Covid-19 cases in the GCC region, with 87,142 infections confirmed to date, including 64,306 recoveries and 525 deaths.

The UAE has 35,192 confirmed Covid-19 cases, meanwhile, with 18,338 recoveries and 266 deaths.

Iran, the regional epicentre of Covid-19, has confirmed 154,445 Covid-19 cases to date.

The country has recorded 121,004 recoveries and 7,878 deaths due to the illness, with Health Minister Saeed Namaki warning of a second wave of infections unless social distancing measures are complied with.

“The outbreak is not over yet and at any moment it may come back stronger than before,” Namaki said.

 
1 June: Covid-19 cases cross 430,330-mark in Mena

GCC cases account for 52.7 per cent of Mena region's total infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 430,334 on 1 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

With 226,606 infections confirmed to date, the GCC accounts for 52.7 per cent of all cases in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 85,261 Covid-19 infections to date, with 62,442 recoveries and 503 deaths reported so far.

On 31 May, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry revised regulations on gatherings and penalties for flouting precautionary measures. 

Preventive protocols have also been introduced for mosques, offices, oil and gas facilities, construction sites and offices and restaurants, among other sectors.

Precautionary guideline updates were also announced in the UAE, which has confirmed 34,557 infections to date, with 17,932 recoveries and 264 deaths.

Abu Dhabi barred movement to and from the emirate on 31 May for a week from 2 June.

Movement is also banned within the emirate’s Abu Dhabi, Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra regions during the period.

To date, 272,959 recoveries have been confirmed in the Mena region, with 11,078 deaths due to the illness.

 

31 May: Covid-19 cases near 420,000-mark in Mena

Recoveries total 259,497 across 17 Mena countries with more than 10,900 deaths reported

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 419,138 on 31 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

So far, 259,497 recoveries from Covid-19 have been reported in the Mena region, with 10,903 deaths due to the illness.

The GCC region accounts for 52.5 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 83,384 Covid-19 cases to date, with 58,883 recoveries and 480 deaths.

The kingdom could return to extreme precautionary restrictions if the number of Covid-19 patients exceeds the medical sector’s capacity, Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah told Al-Arabiya. 

“Public awareness and adherence to precautionary measures is essential to continue the ease of restrictions,” he added.

Mosques will reopen today with capacity restrictions all across Saudi Arabia, except in Mecca.

Curbs are similarly being eased in the UAE, where 33,896 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed to date, with 17,546 recoveries and 262 deaths.

On 27 May, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, said 50 per cent of Dubai Government employees will return to work from today, with the in-office capacity returning to pre-coronavirus levels on 14 June in Dubai.

 

27 May: Covid-19 cases top 378,000-mark in Mena

Reopening gets under way across the region as governments seek to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 377,823 on 27 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 195,079 cases, accounts for 51.6 per cent of all confirmed infections in Mena.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 76,726 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 48,450 recoveries and 411 deaths.

A three-phased programme is under way to gradually reopen businesses in Saudi Arabia, with the nationwide curfew expected to end on 21 June, except in Mecca.

Reopening is also under way in Dubai, where cinemas, gyms, retail stores, clinics, sports academies and recreational venues have been allowed to reopen with precautionary measures in place.

Hotels in Abu Dhabi have also been provided with guidelines for conducting operations once their reopening is permitted.

The UAE has confirmed 31,086 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 15,982 recoveries and 253 deaths.

 

21 May: Covid-19 cases pass 320,000 in Mena

GCC has 157,415 total confirmed infections in the Middle East and North Africa to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 319,711 on 21 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has confirmed 157,145 Covid-19 cases to date, with Saudi Arabia accounting for 62,545 of these infections.

To date, 33,478 recoveries and 339 deaths have been reported in the kingdom.

Kuwait has 17,568 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 4,885 recoveries and 124 deaths.

Researchers in Kuwait have developed polymerase chain reaction-based coronavirus tests that are expected to reduce the need for imports in the country.

To date, 176,942 recoveries from Covid-19 have been reported in the Mena region, with 9,631 deaths confirmed.

 

20 May: Regional Covid-19 cases total 309,528

Outdoor movement further restricted across the Middle East and North Africa ahead of Eid al-Fitr

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 309,528 on 20 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region has 150,490 cases, accounting for 48.6 per cent of the Mena total.

Restrictions are being eased on businesses in the region, but outdoor movement restrictions are being tightened as the Eid al-Fitr holiday approaches.

In Oman, Muscat Municipality announced on 19 May that flower shops, boutiques and shops for women's clothing, shops selling beauty products, utensil shops and communication service halls are allowed to reopen. Consulting, law and auditing offices; shops selling construction materials; brick factories; carpentry workshops; blacksmiths; and aluminium companies are also permitted to resume work.

The UAE announced on the same day that QuantLase Imaging Lab, the medical research arm of the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange-listed International Holdings Company, had developed equipment that speeds up the process of mass screenings, with test results available in seconds. This will enable testing on a wider scale.

The device is suitable for use in hospitals and public places including cinemas and shopping malls, as well as for in-house testing and monitoring.

 

19 May: Mena Covid-19 cases near 300,000-mark

UAE announces tighter curbs and fines as regional countries prepare for Eid al-Fitr

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 299,577 on 19 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Around 19 per cent of these cases are in Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 57,345 infections to date, with 28,748 recoveries and 320 deaths.

The GCC accounts for 48 per cent of all cases in the Mena region. 

The UAE has confirmed 24,190 cases to date, with 9,577 recoveries and 224 deaths.

On 18 May, the UAE announced that the National Disinfection Programme will be extended by two hours from 20 May to run between 8pm and 6am every day. 

Malls and commercial centres may operate between 9am and 7pm, with revised timings to be announced after Eid al-Fitr. 

The regulations also provide for continuing closure of educational institutions, cinemas, sports and recreational facilities, open markets, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, beaches, gymnasiums, public swimming pools and hotels swimming pools. 

The regulations define the number of allowed cars and passengers, as well as not wearing the face mask in closed public places, shopping malls, public transport, while walking in crowded public places, while travelling in a private vehicle with two or more occupants or in shared labour accommodation.

Penalties have been raised for all violations of government-issued precautionary measures.

To date, 162,339 recoveries have been recorded from Covid-19 in the Mena region, with 9,397 deaths due to the illness.

 

18 May: More than 290,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Saudi Arabia issues penalties for violation of social distancing rules as GCC cases approach 138,000-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 290,238 on 18 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region has 137,706 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, while Iran has reported 120,198 infections so far, making it the Mena region’s worst-hit country for the illness.

The regional epicentre of Covid-19 has reported 94,464 recoveries and 6,988 deaths.

In Saudi Arabia, 54,752 cases have been confirmed with 25,722 recoveries and 312 deaths.

To date, 586,405 polymerase chain reaction tests have been carried out in the kingdom to test for Covid-19.

On 17 May, the Saudi interior ministry announced new fines for violating social distancing and attending gatherings.

First-time violators will pay SR10,000 ($2,666), and organisers of illegal gatherings, attendees and those sending invites will pay SR5,000. 

Fines will double when violations occur for a second time, and if the venue of the gathering belongs to the private sector, it will be closed for three months, and six months if the offence is repeated.

To date, the Mena region has recorded 155,636 recoveries in patients with Covid-19, with 9,280 deaths caused due to the illness.

 

17 May: Covid-19 cases top 281,000-mark in Mena

The GCC region accounts for 46.7 per cent of these cases, with 131,193 confirmed infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 280,910 on 17 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 46.7 per cent of these cases, with 131,193 infections confirmed to date.

Saudi Arabia has the GCC’s highest number of Covid-19 cases, with 52,016 confirmed infections, 23,666 recoveries and 302 deaths.

Qatar has 30,972 cases with 3,788 recoveries and 15 deaths, making it the GCC’s second worst-hit country for Covid-19.

The UAE has 22,627 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 7,931 recoveries and 214 deaths.

On 14 May, Dubai Customs launched a stimulus package that includes initiatives such as a refund of 20 per cent on the customs fees imposed on imported products sold locally in Dubai from 15 March to 30 June.

Dubai Customs also confirmed the cancellation of the AED50,000 bank guarantees or cash required to undertake customs clearance activity and its decision to refund these amounts where applicable.

Outside the GCC, Iran has 118,392 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 93,147 recoveries and 6,937 deaths.

To date, the Mena region has confirmed 150,068 recoveries and 9,179 deaths due to Covid-19.

 

14 May: Covid-19 cases cross 254,000-mark in Mena

UAE's Sheikh Mohammed says ministries might be merged to achieve efficiencies in post-pandemic governance

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 254,245 on 14 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran and the GCC now account for 44.3 per cent each of all cases in the Mena region.

Expanded testing capacity is driving the discovery of new cases in the GCC.

The UAE alone has conducted more than 1.56 million tests to date.

So far, 20,386 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the UAE, with 6,523 recoveries and 206 deaths due to the illness.

On 13 May, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, pointed to government restructuring plans as part of a wider strategy to achieve post-pandemic growth.

Following the conclusion of a three-day government meeting to develop a post-virus strategy, Sheikh Mohammed said the structure and size of the government must be reviewed, adding: “We may merge ministries […] and change bodies.”

Sheikh Mohammed also issued the granting of 10-year visas to Dubai Health Authority workers on the frontlines of fighting Covid-19.

To date, the Mena region has recorded 135,559 cases of Covid-19 recoveries, with 8,864 deaths reported due to the illness.

 
13 May: More than 246,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Saudi Arabia announces total lockdown over Eid al-Fitr as Dubai further eases curbs on malls

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 246,176 on 13 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Regional epicentre Iran accounts for 45 per cent of these cases, with 110,767 confirmed infections.

Iran has also reported 88,357 recoveries and 6,733 deaths to date.

Outside Iran, the GCC region has 107,264 cases, with the majority of these infections located in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has 42,925 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 15,257 recoveries and 264 deaths.

On 12 May, Saudi Arabia announced a 24-hour curfew for the Eid al-Fitr holidays on 23-27 May. 

Economic activities will remain open and people can move freely between 9am to 5pm until then in all parts of the kingdom except Makkah, which remains under full curfew.

Meanwhile, the easing of curbs continues in the UAE, where Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management has further relaxed restrictions on outdoor social conduct.

The refund and return of goods and the use of fitting rooms at shopping malls and retail outlets is now permitted, with previous precautions remaining in place. 

Public parks have opened as well, but gatherings may not exceed five people. 

Hotels are allowed to reopen their private beaches only to their guests while enforcing stringent preventive measures, the most important of which is mandatory physical distancing between individuals. 

Sports and recreational activities will be permitted in open spaces for up to five people, including cycling, water sports and skydiving.

The Mena region has recorded 130,828 recoveries of Covid-19 patients and 8,770 deaths due to the illness.

 
12 May: Mena Covid-19 cases near 240,000-mark

Iran plans to open all mosques while Jordan readies for businesses to reopen

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 238,252 on 12 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 101,610 infections, with Saudi Arabia the worst-hit Gulf country for Covid-19 cases.

Saudi Arabia has reported 41,014 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 12,737 recoveries and 255 deaths.

Qatar has the GCC’s second highest number of Covid-19 cases, including 23,623 infections, 2,840 recoveries and 14 deaths.

Iran is the Mena region’s most affected country, with 109,286 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 87,422 recoveries and 6,685 deaths.

Reports say mosques will reopen across Iran from 11 May even as case numbers keep growing in the country. 

Mosques and religious centres will open for special ceremonies held in the last 10 days of Ramadan, but social distancing measures are to be observed.

Several countries in the Mena region, including Tunisia and Jordan, have started to gradually ease restrictions imposed to curb the illness.

To date, 125,712 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region, with 8,678 deaths caused due to Covid-19.

 

11 May: Covid-19 cases cross 230,000-mark in Mena

Saudi Arabia triples VAT in new austerity drive as Covid-19 stunts economic growth

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 230,924 on 11 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Saudi Arabia, which has 39,048 infections of the new coronavirus, has announced surprising moves to mitigate the economic shocks posed by the pandemic.

The kingdom has suspended the cost of living allowance from June and tripled value-added tax (VAT) to 15 per cent from 1 July.

Saudi Arabia’s SR100bn of approved spending cuts also include cancelling, extending or postponing operating and capital expenditures.

To date, Saudi Arabia has reported 11,457 recoveries and 246 deaths due to Covid-19.

Outside the GCC, Iran has 107,603 infections, with 86,143 recoveries and 6,640 deaths. 

It remains the worst-hit regional country for Covid-19.

While curbs have been eased in Iran over the past few weeks, on 10 May the Abadan county was placed under lockdown after case numbers sharply grew as people flouted social distancing rules in the country.

To date, the Mena region has reported 121,491 recoveries and 8,599 deaths due to the pandemic.

 

10 May: Covid-19 cases top 224,000 in Mena region

Iran accounts for 47.6 per cent of all confirmed infections to date with 106,220 cases

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 223,346 on 10 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

With 106,220 cases, Iran accounts for 47.6 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

The country has reported 85,064 recoveries and 6,589 deaths due to Covid-19 to date.

The GCC region has 91,505 cases of Covid-19, more than one-third of which are in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has confirmed 37,136 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 10,144 recoveries and 239 deaths.

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has started to ease the lockdown in some parts of Medina, allowing residents to leave their homes between 9am and 5pm.

Outdoor movement curbs have also been eased in the UAE, where 17,417 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed to date, with 4,295 recoveries and 185 deaths.

To date, 117,743 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region.

Meanwhile, 8,294 deaths have been reported due to Covid-19.

 

7 May: Covid-19 cases cross 203,000-mark in Mena

Iran now has more than 101,000 cases of Covid-19, with the Mena region reporting 107,623 recoveries to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 203,279 on 7 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran’s number of infections has crossed 101,650 this week, with the regional epicentre of Covid-19 now accounting for 50 per cent of all cases in Mena.

To date, the country has reported 81,587 recoveries and 6,418 deaths.

Saudi Arabia has the Mena region’s second-highest number of cases, with 31,938 confirmed infections, alongside 6,783 recoveries and 209 deaths.

Neighbouring UAE has 15,738 confirmed Covid-19 cases, making it the region’s third worst-hit country for the illness. 

So far, 3,359 recoveries and 157 deaths have been reported in the country.

On 6 May, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development issued a reminder to shopping mall owners and managers about ensuring full compliance to precautionary measures as their facilities reopen. 

Non-compliance risks a fine of up to AED10,000 for mall owners and the closure of the facility.

So far, the Mena region has recorded 107,623 recoveries from Covid-19, with 8,177 deaths to date.

 

6 May: Almost 197,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Iran cases approach 100,000-mark as regional recoveries top 104,000

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 196,866 on 6 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran has 99,970 cases of the illness, with 80,475 recoveries and 6,340 deaths. 

The second-highest number of cases in the region is in Saudi Arabia, where 30,251 Covid-19 infections have been confirmed to date.

The kingdom has recorded 5,431 recoveries and 200 deaths due to Covid-19.

Saudi Arabia continues to enforce precautionary measures to curb Covid-19’s spread.

The Interior Ministry said on 5 May that people flouting measures to curb the coronavirus would be sent to jail.

To date, the Mena region has recorded 103,955 recoveries from Covid-19, with 8,051 deaths due to the illness.

 

5 May: Mena has more than 190,000 Covid-19 cases

Easing of lockdowns under way in Iran, Tunisia and Jordan this week

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 190,874 on 5 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Regional epicentre Iran continues to lead the region for Covid-19 infections. 

To date, 98,647 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in the country, with 79,379 recoveries and 6,277 deaths.

The death toll grew by 74 in the past 24 hours. 

Mosques are due to reopen in 132 low-risk Iranian towns and cities as part of a plan to relax restrictions in the country.
Lockdowns are being eased elsewhere in the Mena region as well.

On 4 May, Tunisia started to partially ease restrictions on economic activity.

Government administrations, public transport and construction projects were allowed to resume, according to media reports.

Jordan also announced the easing of restrictions earlier this week.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Tareq Hammouri said all economic sectors are allowed to reopen at their full production capacity from 6 May, provided that the number of Jordanian workers is not less than 75 per cent than the total.

 

4 May: Covid-19 cases cross 185,000-mark in Mena

Algeria slashes budgeted spending by half as infection numbers continue to grow regionally

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 185,549 on 4 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Regional epicentre Iran accounts for 52.5 per cent of all Mena cases, while the GCC has 36.5 per cent of the total infections.

Saudi Arabia has 27,011 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 4,134 recoveries and 184 deaths due to the illness.

The kingdom’s Ministry of Labour & Social Development has issued guidance covering private business owners and employees during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Private sector businesses are permitted to reduce working hours and cut employees’ wages during the next six months, in accordance with their daily or weekly working hours. 

However, wages cannot be reduced by more than 40 per cent of the total salary, and employers are required to resume paying full wages after six months.

It is understood employees cannot object to the pay cut as long as it does not exceed the agreed 40 per cent.  

Business owners also have the right to approve the timings of their employees’ annual leave depending on work conditions. 

Employers given the right to use these measures are not exempted from state subsidies granted to help private sector companies affected by Covid-19, but they may not terminate employment contracts until the six-month period has concluded.

Mena countries, excluding Iran and the GCC countries, account for 11 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the region.

Algeria accounts for 21.8 per cent of Covid-19 cases outside Iran and the GCC.

The country has 4,474 confirmed infections, with 1,936 recoveries and 463 deaths.

On 3 May, the country’s second public spending cut was announced, with the reduction widening from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. 

The government expects energy revenues to fall to $20.6bn from the $37.4bn expected earlier this year. 

Algeria's current $60bn foreign currency reserves will drop to $44.2bn by the end of 2020, down from a previous forecast of $51.6bn. 

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has reportedly refused to approach the IMF and foreign banks for funding support.

 
3 May: Mena region has 180,520 Covid-19 cases

The UAE says it has discovered supportive treatment that can help overcome the symptoms of Covid-19

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 180,519 on 3 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 35.6 per cent of all Mena cases, totalling 64,316 infections. The majority of these are in Saudi Arabia, which has 25,459 cases of Covid-19, with 3,765 recoveries and 176 deaths due to the illness.

Saudi Arabia’s government is planning deeper expenditure cuts and tightening curbs in large provinces such as Dammam in response to Covid-19.

Dammam will be isolated and entry and exit to the province will be prevented from 3 May until further notice, the Saudi Ministry of Interior said on 2 May.

Additional precautionary measures have been implemented, and residents may only step outdoors between 9am and 5pm, Arab News reported.

On 2 May, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said the kingdom would have to “sharply” reduce its budget expenditures to contend with the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Al-Jadaan added that all options are open to enforce savings once citizen welfare commitments have been met.

The UAE has the GCC’s third-highest number of Covid-19 cases. To date, the country has confirmed 13,599 infections, with 2,664 recoveries and 119 deaths.

On 1 May, the Ministry of Economy granted a patent for new supportive treatment that helps overcome Covid-19 symptoms using stem cells. 

A team of doctors and researchers at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre developed the treatment, which involves extracting stem cells from the patient’s blood and activating them prior to reintroducing them. 

The patent was granted for the method through which the stem cells are collected. 

The potential breakthrough was administered in the UAE to 73 Covid-19 patients who inhaled the treatment after it had been nebulised into a fine mist.

It is hypothesised to regenerate lung cells and modulate the immune system to keep it from overreacting to the Covid-19 infection and causing further damage to healthy cells.

 

30 April: Mena Covid-19 cases cross 166,000-mark

Yemen confirms first deaths due to Covid-19 as regional case numbers mount

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 166,189 on 30 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 54,830 of Mena's total cases, accounting for 33 per cent of the regional number.

Saudi Arabia makes up 39 per cent of the GCC’s total cases, with 21,402 confirmed infections.

To date, the kingdom has also reported 2,953 recoveries and 157 deaths. 

In Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, 93,657 cases have been confirmed to date, with 73,791 recoveries and 5,957 deaths.

Yemen reported its first deaths due to Covid-19 on 29 April.

Across the Mena region, 89,676 recoveries have been reported to date, with 7,427 deaths confirmed so far.

 

29 April: Mena Covid-19 cases exceed 161,000

Infections cross 20,000-mark in Saudi Arabia as more regional countries resume commercial activity

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 161,461 on 29 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran’s share in the regional number of cases is flattening, with the country accounting for 57.3 per cent, or 92,584, of all Mena infections.

So far, Iran has reported 72,439 recoveries and 5,877 deaths related to Covid-19.

More than 51,760 cases have been confirmed in the GCC region, where Saudi Arabia alone has 20,077 cases.

To date, 2,784 individuals have recovered in the kingdom, with 152 deaths caused due to Covid-19.

While some sectors have resumed activity in Saudi Arabia, social distancing and other health precautions remain in place due to the severity of the new coronavirus.

More than 250,000 temporary accommodation spaces have been identified to house foreign workers in Saudi Arabia during Covid-19.

On 28 April, Medina govenor Prince Faisal bin Salman approved measures to deal with illegal and cramped housing sites in residential neighbourhoods inhabited by 17,000 migrant workers. 

The committee studying migrant workers’ housing in Medina also allocated 800 residential complexes for these workers.

Additionally, the committee reconfigured housing sites in 215 locations, moving about 3,000 workers to hotels or other sites, to reduce overcrowding and mitigate transmission risks.

Economic activity is also partially resuming in Oman, which has 2,131 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 364 recoveries and 10 deaths.

On 28 April, the Supreme Committee created to combat Covid-19 approved the resumption of work in commercial centres including vehicle repair stores, car and spare parts shops, home appliance outlets and money exchange stores, in addition to quarries and stone crushers.

To date, 87,252 recoveries have been reported in the Mena region, with 7,297 deaths recorded due to Covid-19.

 

28 April:  Covid-19 cases top 157,000 in Mena

GCC countries account for 31.2 per cent of the total confirmed infections in the region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 156,923 on 28 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

GCC countries have 48,954 confirmed Covid-19 infections, accounting for 31.2 per cent of the total Mena cases.

Saudi Arabia, with 18,811 cases confirmed to date, has the highest number of Covid-19 infections outside regional epicentre Iran.

So far, Saudi Arabia has recorded 2,531 recoveries and 144 deaths.

The UAE has 10,839 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 2,090 recoveries and 82 deaths.

On 27 April, the Department of Economic Development – Abu Dhabi said malls and commercial centres may reopen in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, subject to compliance with updated precautionary measures.  

The management teams of these centres must organise Covid-19 tests for in-store employees and receive confirmation on negative results before being allowed to re-open their stores and commence work. 

Conducting these tests is a primary condition for being granted the permits to resume their commercial activities, ADDED said.

Regional epicentre Iran, which has 91,472 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 70,933 recoveries and 5,806 deaths, plans to reopen mosques in the days ahead.

Reports emerged on 27 April stating that Iran would be divided up into white, yellow and red regions based on the number of infections and deaths.

According to Reuters, President Rouhani added that activities in each region will be restricted accordingly, and an area that has been consistently free of infections or deaths will be labelled white and mosques could be reopened and Friday prayers resumed. 

The president reportedly added that the label given to any region could change if case numbers evolve, but did not specify when the colour-coding programme would come into force.

 

27 April: Mena has 152,368 Covid-19 cases

More countries phase in commercial activities as Covid-19's economic impact deepens

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 152,368 on 27 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Of the total number, 59.4 per cent of the cases are in Iran, where 90,481 infections have been confirmed to date.

Iran has confirmed 69,657 recoveries and 5,710 deaths.

The GCC region has 45,878 cases, with the majority of these in Saudi Arabia (17,522). 

The kingdom has confirmed 2,357 recoveries and 139 deaths to date.

Outdoor movement restrictions have been eased in Saudi Arabia with the advent of the holy month of Ramadan.

Saudi malls and retail stores reopen with stringent safety measures, such as disinfection every 24 hours, a ban on customers paying with banknotes and no entry for children under the age of 15. 

Mall entertainment venues such as cinemas, play areas and arcades, as well as prayer rooms and changing rooms must remain closed.

Saudi Arabia and China have also entered an SR996.7m ($265m) agreement that includes China supplying nine million coronavirus test kits, 500 specialist technicians and six test laboratories to the kingdom.

Similar reopening measures have also been implemented in the UAE, where 10,349 cases have been confirmed to date, with 1,978 recoveries and 76 deaths.

On 26 April, the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management in Dubai eased movement curbs in the Naif and Al-Ras neighbourhoods, which were placed under total lockdown to curb Covid-19.

Separately, the DIFC Presidential Directive No. 4 of 2020 was announced on 26 April, with companies based in Dubai International Financial Centre permitted to introduce emergency employment-related measures more quickly to deal with the impact of the pandemic.

Outside Iran and the GCC, Egypt is the worst-hit country for Covid-19, with 4,534 confirmed cases to date. 

The country has also reported 1,176 recoveries and 317 deaths. 

On 26 April, the Egyptian government and central bank were revealed to have requested a fresh financial package from the IMF to counter Covid-19's economic impact. 

Discussions with the IMF are at an advanced stage, the Egyptian cabinet reportedly said.

To date, the Mena region has recorded 82,603 recoveries from Covid-19, and 7,037 deaths.

 

26 April: Almost 150,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Economic activity resumes in parts of the region as case numbers continue to grow

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 147,609 as of 26 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran accounted for about 85 per cent of the Mena region’s Covid-19 cases on 26 March. As of 26 April, this figure is down to 60.5 per cent. 

The regional epicentre of Covid-19, Iran has 89,328 cases of the illness, with 68,193 recoveries and 5,650 deaths.

Outside Iran, Saudi Arabia has the Mena region’s highest number of Covid-19 cases.

As of the morning of 26 April, the kingdom has reported 16,299 cases of Covid-19, with 2,215 recoveries and 136 deaths.

Earlier in the day, the Saudi government lifted its 24-hour curfew in all parts of the country, except Mecca. 

Restrictions on outdoor movement will be in place from 9am to 5pm until 13 May. 

Wholesale and retail trade stores, commercial centres or malls, contracting companies and factories are allowed to resume their activities. Salons, cinemas and recreational centres are to remain closed.

Economic activity has also partially resumed in the UAE, with the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management announcing the light easing of restrictions on movement in Dubai. 

Outdoor movement curbs have been limited to 10pm to 6am, and movement without prior approval permitted during remaining hours. 

Malls and restaurants allowed to reopen at 25-30 per cent of capacity, but mosques' reopening delayed.

To date, the Mena region has reported 80,434 recoveries from Covid-19, with 6,949 deaths caused by the illness.

 

23 April: Covid-19 cases in Mena near 134,000-mark

Dubai and Abu Dhabi eye reopening of commercial centres such as malls as Ramadan approaches

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 133,813 as of 23 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

GCC countries account for 25.4 per cent of Mena’s total cases, with the majority (64.3 per cent) located in regional epicentre Iran.

Outside Iran, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region, with 12,772 confirmed infections. 

To date, 1,812 Covid-19 patients have recovered in Saudi Arabia, while 114 have died.

The UAE has the Mena region’s third-highest number of Covid-19 infections, totalling 8,238 on 23 April.

The country has reported 1,546 recoveries and 52 deaths related to Covid-19.

On 23 April, UAE state-news agency Wam reported that the Ministry of Health and Prevention and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority had directed local economic departments to study the possibility of re-opening commercial centres.

These resumption measures must be considered in consultation with the private sector as the holy month of Ramadan approaches.

Protocols issued by Dubai Economy will require malls to operate at 30 per cent capacity after reopening, with people aged above 60 and children aged 3-12 prohibited from visiting. 

Authorities have not announced when malls may reopen.

Similar guidance has been issued by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, which said malls may reopen between noon and 9pm.

 

22 April: Mena nears 130,000 Covid-19 cases

Saudi Arabia has confirmed more than 11,600 infections to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 129,502 as of 22 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 31,480 cases of Covid-19, with the highest number of infections detected in Saudi Arabia, where 11,631 cases have been reported.

To date, 1,640 individuals have recovered in the kingdom, with 109 deaths.

The UAE has 7,755 cases of Covid-19, with 1,443 recoveries and 46 deaths.

On 21 April, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) recommended the postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai.

The world expo is likely to be held from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.

In the wider Mena region, 13,220 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded outside epicentre Iran, which has reported 84,802 infections.

Yemen has one case of Covid-19. On 21 April, the International Initiative on Covid-19, comprising multinational companies, sent its first 34-tonne shipment to the country.

The shipment contains 49,000 virus collection kits, 20,000 rapid test kits, five centrifuges and equipment that would enable 85,000 tests, and 24,000 Covid-19 nucleic acid test kits.

 

21 April: Mena Covid-19 cases exceed 125,000

Saudi Arabia's infections cross 10,000-mark as GCC approaches 30,000 cases

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 125,329 as of 21 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the illness, has 83,505 cases, accounting for 66.6 per cent of the Mena total.

The country has recorded 59,273 recoveries and 5,209 deaths to date.

Meanwhile, the GCC region has almost 30,000 cases, with Saudi Arabia crossing the 10,000-case mark as of 21 April.

The GCC region has 29,076 Covid-19 cases, and Saudi Arabia has 10,484 confirmed infections.

The kingdom has reported 1,490 recoveries and 103 deaths due to Covid-19 to date.

On 20 April, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia said it would extend the suspension of prayers at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.

The wider Mena region, excluding Iran and the GCC, has confirmed 12,748 cases.

To date, 67,918 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region, with 6,316 deaths.

 

20 April: Regional Covid-19 cases exceed 121,000

Iran accounts for 67.9 per cent of coronavirus infections in the Middle East and North Africa region to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 121,090 as of 20 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Of these, 82,211 cases are in Iran, the regional epicentre of the pandemic’s spread.

The GCC has 26,653 cases of Covid-19, while the remaining Mena countries have 12,226 cases.

Outside Iran, the majority of Covid-19 cases are in Saudi Arabia, which has 9,362 Covid-19 infections, with 1,398 recoveries and 97 deaths.

On 19 April, Qassim Governor Prince Faisal bin Mishaal bin Abdul Aziz inaugurated an initiative allocating SR250m ($66m) in phase one to help families in Buraidah affected by the measures taken to fight the pandemic.

Nazaha, the kingdom's Control & Anti-Corruption Authority, also said on 19 April it had opened a financial and administrative corruption case involving two senior employees at the General Directorate of Health Affairs in the Riyadh region, a hotel owner and six other individuals who are charged with exploitation of the government’s expenditure to contain Covid-19 and providing quarantine areas for repatriated citizens.

The UAE has 6,781 cases with 1,286 recoveries and 41 deaths, while Qatar has 5,448 cases with 518 recoveries and eight deaths.

Mena countries, excluding Iran and the GCC countries, account for 10.1 per cent of the region’s total cases.

Among these markets, Tunisia and Morocco have extended their nationwide lockdowns until 4 and 20 May, respectively.

Earlier this week, Algeria also announced its lockdown had been extended until 23 April.

To date, 65,014 recoveries have been reported in the Mena region, with 6,192 deaths due to Covid-19.

 

19 April: Iran reopens as regional Covid-19 cases grow

More than 116,958 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the region to date, with 63,514 recoveries so far

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 116,958 as of 19 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, the regional epicentre of Covid-19, has confirmed 80,868 infections to date, with 55,987 recoveries and 5,031 deaths. 

Some businesses started to resume operations in Tehran on 18 April after parts of Iran reopened on 11 April. 

Restaurants, Tehran’s grand bazaar, shrines and mosques remain closed, but government offices have reportedly reopened, with a third of employees working from home.

Case numbers also grew in other parts of the Mena region over the weekend. 

Saudi Arabia reported more than 2,000 new cases between 16 and 19 April, taking its total number of Covid-19 infections to 8,274, with 1,329 recoveries and 92 deaths.

In the UAE, which is the GCC’s second worst-hit country for Covid-19 infections, new testing facilities have been set up for workers in Abu Dhabi and the national sterilisation programme encouraging Dubai residents to stay home has been extended.

The UAE has confirmed 6,302 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 1,188 recoveries and 37 deaths. 

To date, 63,514 Covid-19 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region, with 6,065 deaths reported due to the illness.

 

16 April: Mena Covid-19 recoveries cross 55,000-mark

The region has 105,447 confirmed cases of the illness, with 5,707 deaths to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 105,447 as of 16 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, has 72.4 per cent of Mena’s confirmed infections, with 76,389 confirmed cases. To date, there are 49,933 recoveries and 4,777 deaths related to Covid-19 in the country.

A study by the Iranian parliament’s research centre warned earlier this week that the country’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be nearly double the officially reported figures, due to undercounting and because not everyone with breathing problems has been tested for the virus, New York Times reports. 

Outside Iran, the Mena region’s worst-hit country for Covid-19 is Saudi Arabia, where a new round of shutdowns and financial stimulus have been launched to contend with the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 5,862 Covid-19 cases to date, with 931 recoveries and 79 deaths.

On 15 April, the kingdom’s Ministry of Interior isolated the Al-Atheer district in Dammam, banning entry and exit from the city and imposing a 24-hour curfew until further notice. 

On the same day, King Salman approved a package of additional stimulus measures, including SR50bn to expedite the payment of the dues of the private sector; a 30 per cent reduction in electricity bills for consumers in the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors in April and May, with the possibility of extension if needed; and SR47bn in additional funding for healthcare. 

Other initiatives include paying the minimum salaries of Public Transport Authority-registered independent workers in the passenger transport sector, and requiring companies in which the state owns more than 51 per cent of the capital to prioritise the local market and direct their offers and purchases to the benefit of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Mena region has recorded 5,707 deaths due to Covid-19 to date, bringing the region’s fatality rate to 5.4 per cent as of 16 April. 

Excluding Iran’s figures takes the region’s fatality rate to 3.2 per cent, however.

To date, 56,081 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region, for a recovery rate of 53.2 per cent. 

Excluding Iran’s infection numbers, the Mena region has 6,148 recoveries out of 29,058 confirmed cases, leading to a recovery rate of 21.1 per cent.

 

15 April: More than 100,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Study expects Kuwait case growth to recede from mid-May, but GCC infection rates increase

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 101,958 as of 15 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 17,523 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, have 9,558 cases.

Within the Gulf, Saudi Arabia is the worst-hit country for Covid-19 infections. A total of 435 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the kingdom on 14 April, bringing the total number to 5,369 cases.

On 14 April, Saudi Arabia also announced 84 new recoveries, taking the total number of recoveries to 889. The death toll rose by eight to 73.

In the UAE, the health ministry announced 412 new cases on 14 April, raising the total tally of cases to 4,933. 

Eighty-one new recoveries were announced, taking the UAE’s total number of recovered Covid-19 patients to 933, with 28 deaths. 

The UAE’s Federal Tax Authority has announced an exceptional one-month extension to the tax period to ease coronavirus-led pressure on businesses. 

Excise tax registrants are required to file two separate tax returns, one each for March and April 2020, and settle the total amount due for both months by 17 May 2020.

Covid-19 cases continue to grow around the world, and it is unclear when the pandemic might recede. 

However, in Kuwait, which has confirmed 1,355 Covid-19 cases to date, with 176 recoveries and three deaths, estimations have emerged about when the growth curve might flatten.

Kuwait Diabetes Institute’s and Kuwait University’s simulation on the spread of Covid-19 in the country anticipates the coronavirus to peak in Kuwait around mid-May before its growth curve descends.

 

14 April: Covid-19 cases near 98,500-mark in Mena

Case numbers increase outside epicentre Iran as regional governments conduct more health tests

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 98,492 as of 14 April, according to data collated by Worldometers.

The GCC has 16,074 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, have 9,115 cases.

With 73,303 confirmed Covid-19 cases, Iran is the regional epicentre of the new coronavirus and the country's case numbers have grown exponentially since 25 March, when it had about 24,811 cases. 

However, as the coronavirus has spread across the region, Iran’s share in the total number of Mena cases has reduced from 86 per cent on 25 March to 74 per cent as of 14 April.

Middle Eastern governments, led by the GCC, are conducting more intensive health screening operations to identify potential cases of the illness.

To date, Iran has recorded 45,983 recoveries and 4,585 deaths related to Covid-19.

‘Low-risk’ economic activity resumed in Iran on 11 April following orders by President Hassan Rouhani. The same low-risk sectors are expected to open in Tehran on 18 April. 

While health experts have warned that the easing of restrictions could cause a second wave of Covid-19 in the country, the Iranian government says it must resume activity to buoy its sanction-hit economy.

Last week, Iran urged the Washington-based IMF to urgently approve its $5bn loan appeal. Rouhani said “there should be no discrimination” in approving these requests on behalf of IMF member states.

Covid-19 has led to numerous stimulus packages being launched by Middle Eastern governments over the past month.

In Saudi Arabia, the energy sector has contributed about SR500m and Saudi banks have contributed almost SR160m to the health ministry’s relief fund amid Covid-19.

The UAE central bank’s measures to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19 were valued at AED256bn ($69.7bn) on 5 April.

In the wider Mena region, the first batch of irregular workers in Egypt that applied for financial assistance worth £E500 per month amid the coronavirus outbreak started to cash out their benefits on 13 April. 

The Egyptian government has found 1.5 million workers eligible for the aid programme, part of Cairo’s £E100bn stimulus package during Covid-19.

Egypt has 2,190 cases of Covid-19, with 589 recoveries and 164 deaths. It is the worst-hit country in terms of case numbers outside Iran and the GCC. 

To date, 51,301 individuals in the Mena region have recovered from Covid-19, while 5,439 individuals have died of the illness.

 

13 April: Mena's Covid-19 cases approach 95,000

Labour ministry developments announced in UAE and Saudi Arabia as regional case numbers grow

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 94,988 on 13 April, according to data collated by Worldometers.

The GCC has 14,533 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with Saudi Arabia being the worst-hit Gulf country with 4,463 infections.

Saudi Arabia has also reported 761 recoveries and 59 deaths due to Covid-19.

Taraweeh prayers, the additional nightly prayers offered during Ramadan, might be suspended in mosques in Saudi Arabia this year, local newspaper Al-Riyadh reported citing the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah & Guidance.

Covid-19 threatens job security in Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development has amended the labour law to restrict the use of force majeure as a justification for dismissal for six months following the start of announcing the precautionary measures in the kingdom.

Labour ministry activity is also under way in the UAE, which has 4,123 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 680 recoveries and 22 deaths.

On 12 April, a source from the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation said the authority was considering revising partnerships on labour relations with nations refusing to repatriate expat employees that wished to go home. 

Among the curbs being considered are quota impositions on future recruitment from those countries.

Outside of Iran and the GCC countries, 8,769 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Mena region.

The majority of these cases are in Egypt, which has confirmed 2,065 Covid-19 infections to date, with 589 recoveries and 159 deaths as of 13 April.

As of 13 April, 5,280 deaths have been caused due to Covid-19 in the Mena region.

 

12 April: Mena records 91,682 Covid-19 cases

War-torn Yemen reports first case as case numbers grow outside epicentre Iran

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 91,682 on 12 April, according to data collated by Worldometers.

In the GCC, confirmed Covid-19 infection numbers grew by 3,392 cases over the weekend to reach 13,290 on 12 April from 9,898 on 9 April. 

Saudi Arabia has 4,033 confirmed cases, with 720 recoveries and 52 deaths related to Covid-19.

A spokesperson from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior said on 11 April that King Salman had ordered the extension of curfews across Saudi Arabia “until further notice”. The 21-day curfew measure started on 23 March. 

In the UAE, 3,736 Covid-19 cases have been detected to date, with 588 recoveries and 20 deaths.

On 9 April, it was reported that Dubai’s Department of Finance has ordered a 50 per cent cut in capital spending and asked to delay new government construction projects to reduce the financial impact of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Police distributed face masks and personal protective supplies among residents of a number of areas in Abu Dhabi, including Musaffah, Mafraq, Shawamekh and Al-Ain City, and to thousands of construction workers on 10 April.

The Covid-19 pandemic is also impacting wider Middle Eastern economies.

The International Monetary Fund said on 11 April it had approved a $745m emergency loan to Tunisia to help the country mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

War-torn Yemen reported its first Covid-19 case on 10 April. Minister of Health Nasser Baoum reportedly said the patient is a 73-year-old Yemeni national who worked at the port in Al-Sheher.

Provincial governor Farag al-Bouhsni declared a partial curfew and placed all workers at Al-Sheher port under a 14-day quarantine, and the adjacent province of Al-Mahra sealed off its entry points. 

Yemen’s Ministry of Religious Endowment in Aden said mosques would be closed to mass prayers as well as Quran lessons, UAE newspaper The National reported.

With 70,029 cases, 41,947 recoveries and 4,357 deaths, Iran is the worst-hit Mena country for Covid-19 cases.

To date, 5,107 deaths due to Covid-19 have been reported in the Mena region. 

 

9 April: More than 81,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Bahrain pledges private sector salaries as GCC cases approach 10,000 mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 81,695 on 9 April, according to Johns Hopkins University’s data. 

In the GCC, confirmed Covid-19 infection numbers stand at 9,898, with the majority of the cases in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. 

Saudi Arabia has 2,932 confirmed cases, with 631 recoveries and 41 deaths. 

In the UAE, 300 new cases were reported on 8 April, taking the national tally to 2,659. 

At least 239 individuals have recovered from Covid-19 in the UAE, and 12 have died of the illness. 

Fellow GCC nation Bahrain has 823 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 477 recoveries and five deaths. 

The country has doubled down on providing socioeconomic benefits as the pandemic sweeps through the Mena region. 

On 8 April, Bahrain announced plans to pay BD215m ($569.3m) in April-June wages for 100,000 citizens employed in the private sector, waive rents and allowances from tenants of municipal properties, and double social security benefits for citizens.

The Covid-19 pandemic is severely impacting wider Middle Eastern economies.

Lebanon requires net external financing of $10-$15bn over the next five years to help it through its financial crisis as its expects an economic loss of $83.2bn, according to a draft government plan seen by Reuters. 

The crisis plan also includes the restructuring of the central bank and commercial banks to include “a transitory exceptional contribution from large depositors”. 

With 64,586 cases, 29,812 recoveries and 3,993 deaths, Iran is the worst-hit Mena country for Covid-19 cases.

To date, the region has recorded 4,582 deaths due to the coronavirus.

 

8 April: Number of Covid-19 cases keeps growing

Saudi Arabia could eventually have up to 200,000 cases if social distancing measures are not complied with, health minister warns

The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region has 78,512 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of 8 April, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

Saudi Arabia remains the GCC’s worst-hit country for Covid-19 cases, with 2,795 infections, 615 recoveries and 41 deaths reported to date. 

Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said the eventual number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia could be as low as 10,000 or as high as 200,000 depending on compliance with curfews and social distancing.

The kingdom’s Interior Ministry has brought forward closure plans for previously unaffected parts of the country.

This means effectively all of Saudi Arabia’s residents are restricted from outdoor movement, except to leave their homes only for medical or food supplies locally between 6am and 3pm. 

In Bahrain, which has 811 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 458 recoveries and five deaths, closures have been extended until at least 23 April. 

The country’s Supreme Council of Health said the closure of movie theatres, gyms, swimming pools, shisha cafés, salons and non-essential medical services will be effective for the period 9-23 April. 

Restaurants may only conduct deliveries, and public gatherings are to remain limited to five individuals or fewer during the period. All citizens and residents are required to wear face masks in public.

 

7 April: Mena Covid-19 cases reach 75,185

Governments clamp down on movement as case numbers continue daily growth

More than 75,185 cases of Covid-19 have been registered in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region as of 7 April. 

About 4,250 deaths have been reported due to Covid-19 in the region. 

Regional governments continue to clamp down on outdoor movement as part of measures to contain Covid-19. 

On 6 April, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior applied a 24-hour ∂aily curfew to the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran and Hofuf, and the provinces of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Khobar.

As measures to further cushion the blow from Covid-19 on Saudi Arabia’s economy, the Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development said Saudi private sector employers whose businesses are affected by Covid-19 are permitted to cut their employees’ wages and working hours. 

Employers that have benefited from state subsidies, such as the SR9bn ($2.4bn) fund created last week to compensate Saudi workers for the effects of Covid-19, may not terminate employment contracts, but employees retain this right.

Saudi Arabia has 2,605 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 551 recoveries and 38 deaths.

In neighbouring Kuwait, which has 665 confirmed Covid-19 cases, the partial daily curfew on outdoor movement has been extended by two hours, and a lockdown has been imposed on the Mahboula and Jleeb al-Shuyoukh areas, which reports say are densely populated by low-wage expats. 

Employers that compel their Mahboula-based workers to leave their homes will face legal action, the Interior Ministry said on 6 April, adding that police forces are monitoring the area.

With 8,265 confirmed Covid-19 infections, the GCC accounts for about 11 per cent of Mena’s total 75,185 cases. 

Regional epicentre Iran has 60,500 cases of Covid-19, with 24,236 recoveries and 3,739 deaths to date. 

 

6 April: Covid-19 cases cross 71,500 in Mena

Iran to resume "low-risk" activities even as infection numbers continue to grow

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 71,543 as of 6 April 2020, according to data by Johns Hopkins University's live coronavirus infection tracker.

Regionally, more than 4,066 deaths have been reported due to Covid-19.

Iran’s number of coronavirus cases grew to 58,226, with the country reporting a total of 22,011 recoveries and 3,603 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 5 April that Iran would resume “low-risk” economic activity from 11 April, with Tehran resuming these activities from 18 April. 

Two-thirds of all Iranian government employees will work out of the office from 11 April, Rouhani reportedly said, adding that “high-risk” areas such as schools, universities and social venues will remain closed until 18 April.

The GCC region has 7,359 Covid-19 cases, including Saudi Arabia’s 2,402 and the UAE’s 1,799 confirmed infections to date. 

In Saudi Arabia, 488 individuals have recovered from Covid-19, while the number stands at 144 in the UAE. 

Thirty-four deaths have been reported due to Covid-19 in Saudi Arabia and 10 in the UAE.

In the wider Middle East, Jordan has 345 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 110 recoveries and five deaths.

Border closures in Jordan have been extended until after Ramadan, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army plans to use drones to monitor compliance with the country’s curfew rules.

Egypt, which has 1,173 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 247 recoveries and 78 deaths, has revised its growth targets for the fiscal year ending June.

Planning Minister Hala al-Saeed said annual growth targets have been revised from 5.6 per cent to 4.2 per cent.

 

5 April: 67,893 cases confirmed in Mena

GCC governments clamp down on outdoor movement as case numbers mount

Social distancing regulations have been tightened across the GCC as the number of Covid-19 cases reached 67,893 in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region on 4 April 2020.

Iran has 55,743 positive cases of the illness, with 19,736 recoveries and 3,452 deaths.

Saudi Arabia, which has 2,370 cases of Covid-19, issued a 24-hour curfew on seven neighbourhoods within Jeddah over the weekend. 

On 3 April, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud issued a royal decree ordering the allocation of SR9bn ($2.4bn) to compensate citizens working in facilities affected by repercussions of the pandemic.

The royal decree exempts Saudis working in the affected private sector facilities from Articles 8, 10 and 14 of the Unemployment Insurance (Sanad) scheme.

Similar government measures have been implemented in the UAE, with the Dubai emirate now in near-lockdown mode as all-day outdoor movement restrictions are imposed to curb Covid-19. 

On 4 April, Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management extended the federal sterilisation programme to 24 hours a day for two weeks, subject to renewal. 

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has also suspended Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram services.

Oman and Kuwait announced their first deaths due to Covid-19 over the weekend. 

The total number of Covid-19 related deaths in the Mena region now exceeds 3,860. 

 

2 April 2020: Covid-19 cases cross 56,000 in Mena

Regional governments ramp up economic protection measures as coronavirus continues to spread

The total number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) stood at 56,265 on 1 April 2020, prompting renewed government measures to boost economic stability in the region.

Case numbers continue to grow in Iran, the Covid-19 pandemic’s epicentre in Mena, which has at least 3,300 confirmed coronavirus-linked deaths so far.

As of 1 April, more than 47,592 Covid-19 infections were confirmed in the country, with 15,473 recoveries and 3,306 deaths. 

The UAE announced 150 new cases of Covid-19 on 1 April, bringing its total number of infections to 814, with 61 recoveries and eight deaths.

On the same day, Dubai Economy launched a daily price tracker for staple food and essential items to curb price gouging in the emirate. 

Dubai's Knowledge & Human Development Authority and the Sharjah Private Education Authority also ordered schools to make fee refunds to parents as part of measures to mitigate the financial impact of coronavirus-led business closures. 

In Saudi Arabia, where 1,720 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed to date, the Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development allocated SR17bn ($4.5bn) to deal with the economic and employment fall-out from Covid-19.

Its measures include fee exemptions for expat workers whose residency permits (iqama) expire before 30 June, and disallowing forced unpaid leave without employees’ consent.

Ahmad bin Suleiman Al-Rajihi, minister of human resources and social development and chairman of the General Authority of Awqaf, inaugurated a SR500m community fund to contend with Covid-19’s effects.

The fund includes contributions of SR100m from the awqaf authority and SR50m from the labour ministry. 

Saudi Electricity Company contributed SR30m, and the company’s contractors, suppliers and other partners added SR24.65m to support the Health Endowment Fund.

To date, 264 patients of Covid-19 have recovered in Saudi Arabia, with 16 fatalities recorded in the country.

 

1 April: Region's Covid-19 cases keep growing

Saudi Arabia urges patience with clarity around Hajj pilgrimage as Dubai pledges to back Emirates

Regional governments are rolling out a new round of economic relief packages as the number of Covid-19 in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) reached 52,556 on 31 March 2020. 

Case numbers are continuing their upward movement even outside Iran, the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Mena, which has more than 44,605 confirmed cases, making up about 85 per cent of the regional total. 

In Saudi Arabia, where 1,563 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed to date, Mecca governor Prince Khalid al-Faisal has launched the Barran bi Makkah campaign to support families and small businesses affected by Covid-19 containment measures in the holy city. 

Meanwhile, Hajj and Umrah minister Muhammad Salih bin Taher Banten has urged pilgrims and foreign governments to wait for more clarity on the Hajj pilgrimage that is due to take place in late-July. 

Major announcements also emerged from the UAE and Kuwait in the past 24 hours. 

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, said on 31 March that government support would be provided to Emirates Airlines in the form of an equity injection drive. 

The unprecedented capital injection from Dubai, which owns Emirates through its sovereign wealth fund Investment Corporation of Dubai, reiterates the airline's commercial and social significance to the local economy.

Plans were also in motion to announce a new set of financial support packages in Kuwait on 31 March. 

Earlier today, Kuwait announced soft long-term loans from local banks and loan repayment delays for companies affected by the Covid-19 crisis. 

The country’s cabinet has also directed government agencies to pay private sector companies as soon as possible, and waived selected payment obligations for private firms.

 

31 March: New measures unveiled to curb Covid-19 in Mena

Austerity drive kicks off in Oman as UAE launches new labour law rules

Governments have launched a new round of economic relief packages, austerity measures and state-backed benefits as the number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region grows to 48,732 as of 31 March 2020.

Saudi Arabia, which announced 154 new coronavirus cases on 30 March, will offer free Covid-19 treatment to citizens and residents following an order issued by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. 

The kingdom has 1,453 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, with 115 recoveries and eight deaths. 

Government efforts were also stepped up in the UAE, where the steering committee behind Expo 2020 Dubai recommended that the event is delayed by up to a year as the world grapples with the Covid-19 outbreak. 

The UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (Mohre) has announced a national programme to support the private sector labour market while social distancing regulations are in force. 

The cabinet also approved new measures to encourage people to stay at home and ease administrative procedures for businesses and individuals in the UAE, which announced 41 new Covid-19 cases on 30 March. 

Distance learning has been extended for the entirety of the 2019-20 academic year in the UAE, which has 611 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, with 61 recoveries and five deaths. 

In Oman, the government has reiterated its austerity drive, with government companies told to rationalise their operational and investment spending. The Royal Order stipulates that all government companies cut their approved expenditures for 2020 by 10 per cent, and cease the execution of new projects or capital expenditures for the year.

Government entities have also been told to cease spending on all external training sessions, workshops and conferences and exhibitions, and to reduce the funds allocated for official tasks by not less than 50 per cent. Revised budgets are to be submitted to Oman’s Ministry of Finance by the end of April. 

Oman has 179 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 29 recoveries.

In the wider Middle East, Egypt has resumed sterilisation works at key tourism sites in the country, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ordered that doctors’ salaries are increased.

The number of cases in the rest of the Mena region grew from 3,172 on 30 March to 3,520 on 31 March.

 

30 March: Mena Covid-19 cases spur tighter curbs

Sweeping containment curbs have been extended across the region as the number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) grew to 44,905 as of 30 March 2020. 

Globally, 723,700 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed to date, with 152,032 recoveries and 34,018 deaths.

The Saudi Arabian Health Ministry’s spokesperson, Mohammed al-Abd al-Aali, announced on 29 March that 96 new Covid-19 cases had been detected in the country, taking the kingdom’s tally of Covid-19 infections to 1,299, with 66 recoveries. 

Riyadh clamped down on travel bans within the kingdom as the number of Covid-19 related deaths grew by four on 29 March. 

The Interior Ministry has extended the suspension of international and internal flights as well as work in the private and public sectors until further notice. Jeddah has been sealed off and its curfew hours have been extended to start at 3pm local time.

In Iran, 2,901 new cases were announced on 29 March, raising the national tally to 38,309. Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran's health minister, tweeted that 123 new deaths had been recorded as well. 

Iran, the Middle East worst-hit country for Covid-19 cases, accounts for 85.3 per cent of the Mena region’s total cases. The GCC has 3,424 Covid-19 cases, making up 7.6 per cent of the regional total. 

The number of cases in the rest of the Mena region grew from 2,882 on 29 March to 3,172 on 30 March.

 

29 March: Closures extended to curb Covid-19 in Mena

The new coronavirus that emerged in China last December has led to 41,414 Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region as of 29 March 2020.

More than $5tn has been committed by the G20 to support the global economy as part of efforts to contend with Covid-19’s impact on daily life and businesses. 

An extraordinary virtual summit of the G20, which was chaired by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, also ended with the group allocating a budget for research into slowing down the spread of the new coronavirus causing the Covid-19 illness.

More than 1,200 people have been identified as Covid-19 patients in the kingdom, where four deaths have been recorded so far. 

On 29 March, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said it would indefinitely extend its suspension of international and internal flights as well as work at private and public sectors to contain the spread of the new virus. 

Closures in the kingdom, which include domestic flights, trains, buses and taxis, follow the imposition of travel restrictions between Saudi Arabia’s 13 regions. 

Similar closure extensions were announced in the UAE over the weekend, with the National Disinfection Programme – which restricts people and transport movement between 8pm and 6am – extended till 4 April. 

Additionally, the Dubai Free Zones Council said on 28 March it had launched an economic stimulus package to cut business costs and sustain the financial liquidity of companies operating within the free zones.

The UAE announced 63 new Covid-19 cases on 28 March, taking its total number of patients to 468.

 

29 March: UAE contractors given more time and cashflow boost

The UAE cabinet has approved another round of measures to support the economy as it deals with the impact of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.  

The measures include improved payment terms for contractors working on government contracts, as well as exempting companies from penalties that arise from delays caused by the coronavirus crisis.

For payments, the cabinet directed federal ministries and bodies to pay contractors and supplies within 15 days, while for contract delays, suppliers affected by the virus are exempted from fines for delays on federal government contracts for a renewable period of three months.

The cabinet also directed that small and medium suppliers will be awarded 90 per cent of federal government purchases.

The measures are the latest to be introduced by the cabinet. On 22 March, it approved a AED16bn ($4.4bn) economic stimulus package that includes measures to accelerate major infrastructure projects across the federation.

The measures include a renewable six-month suspension of work permit fees and reduction of labour and other charges. The government said the steps would cut the cost of doing business, support small businesses and accelerate major infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure projects are a key part of the UAE’s economy. According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, there are 301 individual projects in the country with a contract value of more than $100m that are at the execution stage. The total value of those projects is $93.6bn.

The stimulus package was approved during a virtual meeting chaired by UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. It is the latest economic package to be announced in the UAE to help mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 14 March, the UAE Central Bank launched AED100bn of credit and capital along with a series of other financial measures to support the economy.

The purpose of the plan is to provide temporary exemption from principal payments and interest on existing loans to all private sector companies and individuals affected by the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Other stimulus packages and financial support measures have been launched by the individual emirates, local banks and private companies.

 

26 March: UAE hospitals get wireless authorisations

The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has extended the validity of all wireless authorisations of hospitals and medical centres across the country regardless of the expiry date of the authorisation.

The decision is part of the TRA’s efforts “to support the precautionary measures taken by the UAE health sector in the current circumstance”.

In the same statement, TRA announced that it has provided a package of backup radio frequencies to support the sector's wireless communication facilty.

This would allow the frequencies to be allocated immediately upon request without the need to pre-pay the fees required to complete the transaction.

TRA added that the agency’s spectrum monitoring system works around the clock to limit any harmful wireless interference that impedes the work of vital services.

“Hospitals and medical centres will be given priority in the event of jamming or interference affecting their devices or causing delay or disruption of their work,” the TRA said

Covid-19 pandemic latest in UAE (as of 25 March)
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
12 March: Dubai announces AED1.5bn stimulus package
14 March: Central Bank pledges AED100bn to support economy
16 March: Abu Dhabi introduces AED5bn stimulus package
17 March: Aldar announces financial support initiatives
17 March: Dubai Holding and Meraas announce economic relief
22 March: UAE cabinet approves additional AED16bn to support infrastructure projects
22 March: Dubai banks offer financial relief measures

 

25 March 2020: Middle East Covid-19 numbers grow

Middle East governments are enforcing stay-at-home orders for citizens and residents as the number of Covid-19 cases grows in the region. 

The UAE announced 45 new cases on 23 March, taking its total number of confirmed Covid-19 patients to 198. Of this number, 41 individuals have recovered from the illness. Dubai and Sharjah Police patrols were seen on 23 March asking people to stay at home and limit the spread of the pandemic.

The UAE is suspending all passenger flights for two weeks from 25 March as part of its Covid-19 containment measures.

Meanwhile, curfews have been implemented in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which have 562 and 189 cases respectively.

Saudi Arabia’s three-week curfew, imposed by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, started on 23 March and will last from 7pm to 6am every day.

Kuwait’s daily 11-hour curfew started on 22 March, and violators will be jailed for up to three years and fined KD10,000 ($32,000) in line with new laws created in the country.

Oman announced 11 new coronavirus cases on 23 March, taking its total number of cases to 66, while Bahrain has 183 positive cases of Covid-19.

Case numbers are also growing outside the GCC. Jordan reported 15 new coronavirus cases on 23 March, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 127.

In Egypt, where 39 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed on 23 March, army official Maj Gen Khaled Shaltut reportedly passed away after contracting the new coronavirus. 

Egypt has 366 cases of Covid-19 and 19 deaths, and in Lebanon, the total number of Covid-19 cases has reached 256. 

Syria announced its first Covid-19 case earlier this week, and Iraq’s outbreak has led to 266 cases. 

Iran, the epicentre of the virus in the Middle East, has 23,049 cases and at least 1,812 deaths. 

The country has faced criticism for not imposing stricter quarantine measures during the outbreak’s earlier stages to contain its spread.

The financial strain of the virus has also caused Iran to approach the IMF for a $5bn emergency loan for the first time since 1962. 

It is also suffering due to the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.

24 March 2020: Covid-19 could jeopardise $91bn of project spending

There is $91bn of project spending forecast for the Middle East and North Africa region during the second quarter of this year that could be jeopardised by the disruption caused by the new coronavirus (Covid-19) global pandemic.

According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, there is $91bn of cash expected to be spent on projects across all sectors in the region during the second quarter. The bulk of this spending is from the GCC, where there is $62bn forecast to be spent on projects.

The largest single country for upcoming project spending in the second quarter is the UAE with $21bn, followed closely by Saudi Arabia, which is expected to spend $20bn.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the region’s two largest projects markets based on the total value of projects at the execution stage. There are $181bn of projects under execution in Saudi Arabia, compared with $137bn in the UAE.

Although projects across the region have not yet been severely affected by the spread of the virus, the impact is starting to be felt with contractors reporting delays in the delivery of items from overseas – in particular from China – and growing difficulties with staff and labour.

“For now, work on our sites is proceeding, but work will inevitably slow," says a regional contractor. "The two main concerns are the supply chain failing to deliver on time and people being unable to work."

While progress on projects will be challenged by measures to control and contain the spread of the coronavirus, there is a commitment from governments to continue with project work.

The clearest sign of the government’s approach came on 22 March when the UAE cabinet approved a $4.4bn economic stimulus package that includes measures such as a renewable six-month suspension of work permit fees, and reduction of labour and other charges, that aim to accelerate major infrastructure projects across the federation.

The feedback from the market so far is mixed. Some contractors say there appears to be a willingness from government clients to proceed with projects.

“Tendering is still ongoing,” says the estimating manager of a regional contractor. “It seems like governments want to demonstrate that, although they are working from home, they still need to deliver projects.”

While tendering looks to proceed as planned, there are concerns about payments.

“Payments are slow at the best of times and I expect it will get worse," says a Dubai-based project management consultant. "People are working from home and payments often need multiple signatures before they are released, and that process will slow down if people are working from home."

Payments will become even more strained if disruption caused by the coronavirus means that work is not completed and certified. With supply chain and manpower challenges already emerging, a percentage of the $93bn of spending planned for the second quarter will inevitably be delayed. As the virus spreads and its impact grows, that percentage will increase.

23 March 2020: A snapshot of the spread of Covid-19 in the region

17 March 2020: GCC ramps up Covid-19 response

Efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, are intensifying across the GCC as regional governments implement new closures and activate remote working in the public sector. 

The GCC has about 1,043 cases of Covid-19, the majority of which are linked to direct or indirect travel to Iran, the epicentre of the virus in the Middle East, which has more than 15,000 confirmed cases of the illness. 

Iran has 14,991 cases of the new coronavirus, making it the world’s third worst-hit country after China (81,050 cases) and Italy (27,980 cases).

Saudi Arabia

Fifteen new cases of Covid-19 infections were reported by Saudi Arabia on 16 March, taking the country’s total number of coronavirus patients to 133. Six of Saudi Arabia’s 133 Covid-19 patients have recovered and the remaining are in isolation.  

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority on 16 March cut the Repo rate by 75 basis points from 1.75 per cent to 1.00 per cent and the Reverse Repo rate by 75 basis points from 1.25 per cent to 0.50 per cent with the aim of “preserving monetary stability”. 

Saudi Arabia’s public sector employees, except those working in health, security and military services, were ordered on 15 March to stay at home for 16 days as part of measures to contain Covid-19. 

Companies have been urged to quarantine expat workers for 14 days following their return to Saudi Arabia from vacation.

The kingdom has already suspended international passenger flights, cancelled the Umrah pilgrimage and locked down the Qatif province.

On 15 March, Riyadh also announced the closure of shopping centres, malls, restaurants, coffee shops and public parks. Only supermarkets and pharmacies are permitted to operate. 

Kuwait

Similar measures have been implemented in Kuwait, where the announcement of 11 new Covid-19 cases on 16 March brought the national total to 123, with 114 active cases and nine recoveries. 

Kuwait has declared a public holiday from 12-26 March to contain the spread of Covid-19, and has also closed down commercial establishments such as shopping malls, commercial complexes, theme parks and salons. 

Congregational prayers have been temporarily suspended by the Kuwait Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs, and non-cargo flights have also been grounded in the country. 

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, Anas al-Saleh, said on 16 March that the government was open to expanding its precautionary measures if they are deemed necessary to contain Covid-19’s spread. 

He said: “The option to impose countrywide curfew or extradite some lawless expatriate workers remains to be a final resort in case the health instructions are not heeded. 

“The government will never allow the health system of the country to collapse due to non-abidance by the instructions of the Ministry of Health. If the citizens and expatriates are careless or fail to take seriously these instructions, the state will definitely have different responses.”

Bahrain

Travel suspensions were extended in Bahrain on 15 March, one day before the first Covid-19 fatality was announced by the kingdom. 

The Civil Aviation Affairs authority announced a reduction in the number of incoming flights to Bahrain until further notice, effective 3am on Wednesday, 18 March 2020. 

The Nationality, Passport & Residence Affairs (NPRA) department at Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior will also start to suspend on-arrival visas across the kingdom’s entry points until further notice at the same time.

On-arrival visas will be available for diplomatic passport holders and e-visas will be available for the public, NPRA said.

A 65-year-old Bahraini woman passed away due to Covid-19, Bahrain said on 16 March. 

State-run Bahrain News Agency announced that the woman “had returned from Iran via an indirect flight last month and had not entered the general population”. 

To date, 228 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Bahrain, of which 147 are active cases.

Oman

Border closures have been announced in Oman, which as of 16 March had the lowest number of Covid-19 cases in the Gulf. 

Oman’s Ministry of Health announced two new Covid-19 cases on 16 March, which it said were linked to travel abroad.

Twenty-two of the sultanate’s 24 cases are linked to travel, Oman said. 

Oman is barring entry to non-GCC residents in response to the new coronavirus. The sultanate’s Supreme Committee decided that arrivals to the country from 17 March, including citizens, would be placed under quarantine upon entry. 

The Supreme Committee has also closed all parks and public play areas, suspended Friday prayers and banned all social gatherings, including weddings and funeral ceremonies.

Schools and universities, as well as sports activities, have been suspended for a month, and cruise liners have been stopped from entering Omani ports.

UAE

Measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 were expanded in the UAE on 16 March as further venue closures were announced. 

Dubai Financial Market has temporarily closed its trading floor and customer affairs counters until further notice in response to Covid-19. 

However, the Dubai bourse’s chief operating officer and head of operations, Hassan al-Serkal, said the closure of the floor would not affect trading activity. 

“Investors can carry on with their activities through DFM’s online and smart platforms as well as licensed brokerage firms.

“As long as this temporary closure is implemented, only employees of brokerage firms with offices located at the trading floor can access the premises.”

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange also closed its trading floor on 15 March. 

The UAE has 98 confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 26 have recovered. Twelve of the 98 cases were announced on 16 March. 

On the same day, the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis & Disaster Management Authority and the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments temporarily suspended prayers in all places of worship for four weeks.


 Abu Dhabi, 16 March, 2020 (WAM):  During a video conference, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan learned about the ongoing national efforts to curb the proliferation of Covid-19


Middle East update

Social distancing is being encouraged as Middle East governments seek to limit the spread of Covid-19. 

Lebanon declared a medical state of emergency on 15 March, shutting down its airport and most public institutions and private companies. 

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said Lebanon’s borders, ports and airport would be closed on 18-29 March and Lebanese people were obliged to remain at home except for matters of "extreme necessity”.

Ninety-nine cases and three fatalities have been attributed to Covid-19 in Lebanon. 

Tunisia will suspend international flights and close its land border to contain the outbreak of coronavirus, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said on 16 March. 

Egypt, which has reported 150 cases and three deaths, will halt flights to its airports from 19-31 March and implement a shutdown that will include the sterilisation of hotels and tourism facilities, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said. 

Iraq announced a week-long curfew on 15 March, and the shutdown will take effect later today. It includes the suspension of all flights from Baghdad International airport as Iraq seeks to contain Covid-19, which has infected 124 and claimed nine lives in the country. 

Qatar reported 38 new coronavirus cases on 16 March, taking the total number of infections to 439, according to the Andalou Agency.

12 March 2020: Travel bans intensify amid pandemic

Travel restrictions have intensified in the Middle East after the World Health Organisation said Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, could be characterised as a pandemic.

Saudi Arabia has suspended travel for citizens and expatriate residents to countries with cases of Covid-19.

Included in Saudi Arabia’s latest round of restrictions are flights to EU countries, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia.

Travellers, including individuals that visited these countries in the fortnight prior to their arrival, are also banned from entering Saudi Arabia.

Land travel with Jordan has been suspended for passengers, but commercial and freight traffic is permitted. Saudi Arabia will also allow humanitarian and other exceptional cases to enter from Jordan.

In a statement carried by government-held Saudi Press Agency on 12 March, a source from the kingdom’s Ministry of Interior said Saudi citizens and nationals of the countries covered by the ban, who have valid residency in the kingdom, have 72 hours to return to Saudi Arabia before the travel suspension decision becomes effective.

News of Saudi Arabia’s travel ban emerged after the kingdom confirmed 24 new Covid-19 cases, including 21 Egyptians who have been quarantined in Mecca.

Cinemas have also been temporarily closed in Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom’s Health Ministry has called on people to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people.

Saudi Arabia now has 45 cases of Covid-19, while the UAE has 74 cases.

The UAE’s Central Bank has instructed employees to work remotely in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The Abu Dhabi government has also activated its remote work system for some of its employees, including senior citizens, working mothers, and staff with chronic illnesses and respiratory conditions.

Local media reports that the academic year in the UAE would be halted until June in favour of an e-learning system were also refuted by the Ministry of Education.  

Kuwait closures

Among the most wide-ranging closures have been implemented in Kuwait, which has 70 cases of Covid-19.

Boursa Kuwait will not operate on 12 March, and non-vital Kuwaiti government departments will be closed between 12 and 29 March.

Kuwait Banking Association (KBA) said banks in the country would also close their doors on 12-29 March.

KBA’s board chairman Adel al-Majed said every bank would be allowed to operate only one branch in each of Kuwait’s six governorates.

Kuwait’s ministries of interior and information have filed lawsuits against people spreading rumours about Covid-19, it emerged on 11 March.

Kuwait has also banned people from visiting restaurants and cafés, including those in malls, and temporarily halted traditional private and public gatherings.

Fellow GCC state Bahrain recorded 77 new cases on 11 March among 165 citizens repatriated from Iran, the epicentre of Covid-19 in the Middle East.

The new diagnoses take Bahrain’s tally of Covid-19 cases to 188, according to Andalou Agency.

Qatar recorded 238 new Covid-19 cases on 11 March, with local media reporting these were detected “among expatriates from contacts of the three cases who were declared infected with the virus [last week] and reside in same residential complex”.

Regional spread grows

Oman, which has 18 cases of the new coronavirus, said its national Oman Air would temporarily suspend all flights to Saudi Arabia until further notice.

Iran has 9,000 cases of Covid-19 and has recorded 354 deaths. The country’s Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri has tested positive for Covid-19.

Other government representatives in Iran who have reportedly contracted the virus include Minister of Cultural Heritage Ali Asghar Mounesan and President of National Olympic Committee Reza Salehi Amiri.

More than 125,865 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded globally, of which about 9,951 are in the Middle East.

China, the epicentre of the virus, has 80,932 cases, while Italy, the hub of the virus in Europe, has 12,462 cases.

US President Donald Trump announced restrictions on travel from 26 European countries for the next 30 days.

However, the US' restrictions will not apply to the UK, where 460 cases of the virus have been confirmed, with patients including Health Minister Nadine Dorries. 


More on the impact of coronavirus

 

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