The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 10,117,261 on 12 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.
Countries in the GCC account for 22.8 per cent (2,303,651) of all regional cases, while Iran’s 3,373,450 infections account for 33.3 per cent of the Mena case tally.
Since 5 July, 282,799 new cases have been reported in the 17 Mena countries tracked by MEED.
The week-on-week tally is higher than the 238,863 new cases recorded in the week following 28 June.
The 10 million-mark has been breached as case numbers grow rapidly amid the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, both in the Mena region and globally.
Tunisia alone has recorded a 12 per cent growth in total cases over the past week, with its tally growing from 407,017 on 5 July to reach 443,631 on 12 July.
Lockdowns are being reinstated in parts of the region to contend with rising infection rates, particularly as the Eid al-Adha holidays approach next week.
Vaccine administration, production and procurement are also gathering pace in the region.
Saudi Arabia approves Moderna
The kingdom’s Food & Drug Authority approved Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine on 9 July, making it the fourth shot that has been authorised for use in Saudi Arabia after those produced by Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.
From 11 July, Saudi Arabia also fully resumed administering the second dose of vaccines for all age groups after they were postponed in mid-April to immunise the maximum number of people with first doses. Second doses were reinstated in phases for individuals aged over 60 and 50 years in May and June, respectively. More than 19 million doses of the vaccine have been administered so far in the kingdom.
Abu Dhabi updates quarantine rules
Abu Dhabi has extended home quarantine rules for people in contact with those who have tested Covid-19 positive, with vaccinated individuals required to quarantine for seven days and take a PCR test on day six. If the PCR test result is negative, they can remove the tracker device on day seven.
Unvaccinated people must quarantine for 12 days and take a PCR test on day 11. They will be allowed to remove tracking devices on day 12 if their test results are negative. Home quarantine of five days was previously required, with a PCR test mandated on day four.
People arriving in Abu Dhabi from countries on the green list do not need to quarantine, according to a move that took effect on 5 July. More than 64 per cent of the UAE population is understood to be fully vaccinated, with at least three in four people having received one dose.
Bahrain advances booster shot timeline
Manama will administer booster shots one month after high-risk individuals received their second dose, in some specific cases. High-risk people for whom the special consideration will be offered include those aged 50 years and above, those who suffer from obesity and immune system deficiencies, and frontline responders.
The health ministry in June called on citizens and residents aged over 50 who had received both doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in the past three months to register for a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech.
Kuwait wants to avoid another lockdown
The Commerce & Trade Ministry’s insurance regulation unit has required its employees to have received at least one dose of an approved Covid-19 vaccine. More than 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered in Kuwait, where the delta variant of the coronavirus is causing a rise in cases.
Defense Minister and head of the coronavirus emergency committee, Sheikh Hamad Jaber al-Ali al-Sabah, said on 7 July that authorities are trying to avoid imposing another lockdown to counter the significant increase in the number of new cases, adding the “figures are very disturbing, whether for intensive care units or wards”.
Oman eyes legal action against unvaccinated civil servants
More than 1.2 million people have been vaccinated in Oman, where 3.7 million people aged 12 years and above are being targeted for inoculation. Health Minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saidi said a total of 1,936,330 doses of vaccines had arrived in Oman as of 8 July, of which 1,518,864 doses had been administered.
Al-Saidi also revealed that legal action would be taken against civil servants who refuse to get vaccinated: “We will take legal action against workers in government institutions who refuse to take vaccination doses without a convincing medical reason. Private sector institutions may take the same approach.”
Muscat aims to immunise 65-70 per cent of its target groups with at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of August.
Since 9 July, citizens and residents who have received the first dose of an approved vaccine have been permitted to take domestic flights to Salalah and Khasab. Selected foreign and GCC nationals that have received both doses can also travel to these airports. A complete lockdown has been announced for the three days of Eid al-Adha next week, and a total ban will be imposed on all commercial activities and the movement of individuals and vehicles.
An additional daily evening closure of commercial activities and a ban on movement of individuals and vehicles will be implemented from 5pm until 4am on 16-31 July. There are some exemptions for the Musandam governorate, where the rate of infections and hospitalisations is low, according to authorities.
Qatar eases quarantine rules
Travellers that have been fully inoculated with vaccines approved by Doha are no longer required to quarantine, but must take an antibody test upon arrival. New rules have also been announced to classify countries into three categories – green, yellow and red – with a quarantine policy for unvaccinated travellers from each category. Arrivals from the green category will have to undergo domestic quarantine for five days, while those from the yellow and red categories must spend seven and 10 days in quarantine, respectively.
Egypt to receive doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson
Cairo will receive 2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine in the coming weeks, Health Minister Hala Zayed said on 9 July. The country will also receive further shipments of Johnson & Johnson’s jab, as well as of the materials needed for its local production line of the Sinovac vaccine. Egyptian company Vacsera plans to produce 80 million doses to vaccinate 40 million people by the end of 2021, with further plans to also export an estimated 400 million doses to neighbouring countries.
Iraq partially sustains restrictions
The national committee to combat the spread of Covid-19 has launched a partial curfew from 11pm to 5am for a week. The curfew is in place throughout the country, except in Kurdistan, where the regional government sets its own measures. Local governments will continue to have the authority to set official public sector working hours, provided they remain under 50 per cent of normal hours.
Spaces for large indoor gatherings will remain closed, local media reported. As of 7 July, 959,928 doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered in Iraq. Baghdad last week started easing a full curfew introduced in May, as part of which international travel is approved with limitations based on the traveller's port of departure.
Jordan inoculation drive receives support
Amman has entered an agreement with Qatar Charity that will entail the provision of a QR10m ($2.75m) grant to support Jordan’s vaccination efforts for citizens and Syrian refugees. Jordan has also launched a new programme with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), encouraging people over 16 years old to register for the vaccine on the government's online platform as it contends with vaccine hesitancy.
Morocco to manufacture Sinopharm
Pharmaceutical firm Societe Therapeutique Marocaine (Sothema) will start production of 5 million doses a month of China's Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine in the North African country. Rabat is also understood to have signed a deal with Sweden’s Recipharm for the establishment of a plant in Morocco to produce other vaccines. Morocco has a population of about 36 million people and had administered 19.23 doses of the Sinopharm and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines as of 5 July.
Libya receives Russian vaccine shipment
Libya’s Medical Supply Organisation received the third batch of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine, consisting of 100,000 doses, on 6 July. It is planned to be distributed to the public as the first dose of the two-dose system.
According to local media reports, the shipment is the sixth to arrive in Libya since the first batch of Sputnik-V arrived on 4 April and brings the total number of vaccines in Libya to 626,452 doses. Tripoli has also received doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sinovac to date, with the health ministry expecting to receive a total of 12 million doses over time.
Tunisia says health situation is 'catastrophic'
Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, earlier this week ordered the dispatch of 500,000 doses to help Tunisia contend with growing case numbers. Last week, Tunis said it would carry out a direct purchase of 3.5 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s jab as criticism of the government’s slow inoculation campaign mounts.
It is reported that only 592,000 Tunisians out of the country’s 11.6 million residents have received both doses of a vaccine. Tunisian health ministry spokesperson Nissaf Ben Alaya said last week the situation is “catastrophic” and compared it to that of a “sinking boat”, adding the national health system has “collapsed”.
Syria pledged vaccines from Russia
Moscow will continue to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to Syria of which some will be free of charge, according to Russia’s special presidential envoy to the country, Alexander Lavrentyev.
“We have to provide aid to our brotherly Syrian people to help them in fighting the coronavirus,” he told the state-run Tass News Agency. “The agreement on vaccine supplies has been achieved in principle, and a number of routine issues remain to be resolved.”
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