Mena nations maintain curbs to contain Covid-19

13 August 2020
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.

Covid-19 in the Mena region:

(13 August 2020)

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 293,037
  • Recoveries: 257,269
  • Deaths: 3,269

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 3 August: Pilgrims returning from Hajj must quarantine for 14 days and will be monitored by electronic bands to ensure compliance. 
  • 28 July: Health Ministry to assign a health leader for every 50 pilgrims of this year's scaled-back Hajj. 
  • 21 July: Saudi Arabia's Minister of Hajj & Umrah, Muhammad Saleh Benten, says "unprecedented" arrangements have been made for this year's scaled-back pilgrimage.
  • 17 July: Ministry of Health says it is conducting more than 65,000 tests every day. 

 Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 12 August: Taif University reportedly earbarks SR3m for coronavirus research. Covid-19 papers including proposals to overcome Covid-19's economic, medical and social impacts were sought by the university, with 62 submissions accepted to date. 
  • 8 August: Health ministry says 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. 
  • 5 August: Work begins to resume schooling in the kingdom from 30 August. Schools were closed on 9 March to curb Covid-19.
  • 3 August: Saudi Customs eases precautionary measures for trucks from the GCC that are driving to the kingdom as their final destination. Prince Mohammed bin Salman Cup's Professional League football matches to resume.
  • 1 August: Capacity of ICU beds increased by 31 per cent in Tabuk's hospitals as part of continuing measures to improve healthcare services and Covid-19 preparations in the kingdom.
  • 28 July: ICU bed capacity increased by 41 per cent in Riyadh.
  • 27 July: Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) completes automatic extension of the exit and re-entry visas of expatriates currently outside the kingdom. The extension is valid for three months and was completed at no cost to the visa holder. The kingdom's General Authority of Civil Aviation said last week it had yet to set a date for the resumption of international flights.
  • 23 July: Saudi citizens, their immediate family members and their domestic staff can enter the kingdom by land from Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE without obtaining prior authorisation, marking the reopening of land borders four months after they were closed to curb the spread of Covid-19. 
  • 14 July: Corporate Sustainability Programme launched by the Ministry of Finance to support the deferment of loan installments for the private sector. The initiative includes deferring loan installments due in 2020 for the health and education sectors. Worth SR670m, 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.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 63,212
  • Recoveries: 57,193
  • Deaths: 358

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 August: Omar al-Hammadi, the official spokesman for the UAE government, said the opening of markets, restaurants and commercial centres is mistakenly considered as the driver for the recent growth in infections among citizens, instead of home gatherings. Al-Hammadi said gatherings that are held in public places are monitored by the authorities and adopt all precautionary measures as stipulated, "unlike household gatherings, which are not monitored and preventive measures such as wearing masks are often overlooked".
  • 3 August: Health ministry, represented by the Fujairah Medical Zone, opens two Covid-19 testing centres in Umm Dibba and Fujairah Exhibition Centre. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 12 August: Special approval will no longer be required for residents trying to re-enter the UAE, who previously required approval from the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship. Passengers must update their data, including a valid Emirates ID, passport number and citizenship, at uaeentry.ica.gov.ae prior to their return. They must also submit the results of a PCR nasal swab test from an accredited lab, and negative results of the test, taken within 96 hours of their flight, must be submitted when booking a ticket to the UAE. 
  • 12 August: Mubadala Healthcare's National Reference Laboratory (NRL) opens second Covid-19 testing facility in Dubai. The new lab is accepting samples from medical facilities in Dubai and the Northern Emirate. The NRL in Abu Dhabi is said to have delivered more than 240,000 test results to date.
  • 11 August: Mohammed bin Rashid Medical Research Institute, the UAE’s first independent biomedical research centre, is launched. 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 and is part of the Al-Jalila Foundation.
  • 10 August: Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship extends deadline for holders of expired entry permits and visas for one month from 11 August, allowing them to leave the country and exempting them of all fines. Testing facility at Al-Qarayn health centre in Sharjah receives 500 volunteers for phase 3 clinical trials of the inactivated vaccine. 
  • 9 August: Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre (Sheraa) and CE-Ventures distribute more than AED700,000 to 11 start-ups in the retail, real estate, fintech, travel and tourism, agriculture, education, technology and creative sectors. Four rapid Covid-19 testing centres to facilitate entry into Abu Dhabi open in Dubai, Fujairah and Ras al-Khaimah.
  • 8 August: Central Bank expands Targeted Economic Support Scheme after reviewing the existing thresholds the Net Stable Funding (NSFR) and the Advances to Stable Resources (ASRR) prudential ratios by temporarily relaxing the requirements for the structural liquidity position of banks. 
  • 5 August: Ministry of Health and Prevention to start the world's first Phase 3 clinical trials of an inactivated vaccine to combat Covid-19. The ministry has dedicated the Al-Qarayen Health Centre in Sharjah as the first centre outside Abu Dhabi to register, screen and test volunteers wishing to participate in the trials. Senior Abu Dhabi health officials take second shot of inactivated Covid-19 vaccine. 
  • 4 August: National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority and the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship to accept Covid-19 test results from all laboratories accredited by global governments. Separately, passengers travelling to Dubai can take pre-flight Covid-19 tests from a wider list of providers after Emirates airline added a list of recognised and approved testing centres around the world where screening for coronavirus via a PCR nasal swab is provided. Passengers were previously required to take a test in a UAE-recognised clinic overseas.
  • 3 August: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, says cabinet meetings will resume in August instead of September due to unusual circumstances. National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Team in Sharjah reopens all beaches in the emirate. Ajman Free Zone launches package of eight incentives that is particularly expected to benefit small- and medium-sized enterprises impacted by Covid-19.  
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 45,264
  • Recoveries: 41,836
  • Deaths: 166

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 12 August: Jameela al-Salman, member of Bahrain's National Medical Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (Covid-19), reveals more than 923,000 tests have been conducted in the country to date. Prayers at mosques, collective worship and religious assemblies will remain suspended until Covid-19's risks are adequately mitigated, Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs says. Ministry of Health's public health department invites volunteers to participate in phase 3 trials of the vaccine that Chinese company Sinopharm is also testing in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
  • 10 August: Cabinet approves a proposal to provide an isolation ward for incoming passengers that have visited countries with high Covid-19 infection rates. Chief of medical services at Salmaniya Medical Complex and member of the National Medical Taskforce to Combat Coronavirus, Nabeel Ahmed al-Asheeri, warns that several Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic, adding that compliance with mandated precautionary measures is critical to avoid contracting the illness. 
  • 3 August: Ministry of Health holds additional training sessions and workshops for doctors, nurses, support staff and other medical specialists to help them understand ways of preventing and treating cases of Covid-19.
  • 28 July: Eid al-Adha prayers in Bahrain are to be performed at home at 5:31am on Friday, the Sunni Endowment Department says. Mosques have been closed in Bahrain as part of preventive measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus through congregations.
  • 19 July: Southern Governorate receives 2,000 medical masks donated by the Bahrain Society for Women Development and the Good Imprint Association.
  • 13 July: Passengers coming to Bahrain must pay BD30 for a Covid-19 test at Bahrain International airport.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 11 August: Derasat and UNDP launch joint project to assess the socioeconomic impact of Covid-19. 
  • 9 August: Phase 3 trials of Covid-19 vaccine begin in cooperation with partners from the UAE and China. 
  • 8 August: Private training institutions to reopen from 3 September.
  • 1 August: King Fahd Causeway reopens for Bahraini trucks.
  • 29 July: Private employers allowed to hire foreign workers again after work permit issuance was put on hold for four months due to Covid-19. Labour Market Regulatory Authority says it will start accepting requests for new work permits starting from 9 August.
  • 27 July: Cabinet decides to exempt citizen subscribers of electricity and water services in their first household from paying municipal fees for a period of three months starting from July 2020. Ministry of Education directed to take the necessary measures to prepare for the 2020/21 academic year for both public and private schools, with the choice of in-person or remote learning for students left to their parents.
  • 23 July: Gyms, sports halls, outdoor sports fields and swimming pools allowed to reopen from 6 August.
  • 19 July: Nationality, Passports & Residence Affairs agency extends 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.
  • 15 July: Bahrain said to be considering blended learning, comprising in-class and online teaching options, as school resumption is targeted for September. Reopening of mosques is delayed until case numbers decline.
  • 14 July: King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa issues 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 is 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 state’s general budget during the remainder of the fiscal year 2020. 
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 73,785
  • Recoveries: 65,451
  • Deaths: 489

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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 expatriates. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 3 August: Government urges citizens to buy health insurance to cover the costs of treatment should they travel. Citizens and expatriates returning to Kuwait are required to provide a PR test not older than 72 hours, as well as quarantine for 14 days at home. 
  • 28 July: Directorate General of Civil Aviation says airlines operating at Kuwait International airport will start commercial flights to 20 countries on 1 August. The airlines that will start operating are those of the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the UK, Turkey, Iran, Nepal, Switzerland, Germany, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and India, DGCA's director of the air transport department, Abdullah al-Rajhi, said.
  • 27 July: The Kuwaiti government is getting ready to reopen its airport for commercial flights on 1 August. Travellers must register their flight details at www.kuwaitmosafer.com to schedule an appointment for their Covid-19 tests, which most countries are asking of their arriving passengers. Kuwait International airport will reopen on 1 August at 30 per cent capacity under the first of a three-phase plan.
  • 23 July: Phase three of Kuwait's reopening to get under way from 28 July. Curfew hours will be shortened to 9pm-3am and worshippers will be able to attend Eid al-Adha prayers at select mosques. 
  • 21 July: Civil aviation authority releases guidelines to ensure the safe resumption of air travel next month, with measures including random testing of passengers, mandatory use of face masks, and maintaining physical distance. Departing travellers are required to provide negative Covid-19 certificates before boarding and the manual checking of tickets will be replaced with digital scanning to avoid physical contact. 
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 82,299
  • Recoveries: 77,072
  • Deaths: 539

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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 to 5am confirmed for 8-15 August. Dhofar governorate to remain in lockdown until further notice.
  • 21 July: Two-week curfew to be reimposed in the sultanate from 25 July as case numbers continue to grow. Inter-region travel is banned, as are gatherings over the Eid al-Adha holiday. Restrictions cover all types of movements, with public places and shops to remain closed from 7pm-6am, with intensified patrols and points of control in the daytime.
  • 14 July: Supreme committee for Covid-19 decides to continue lockdowns in Dhofar and Masirah. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 11 August: Oman plans to import the Covid-19 vaccine from various countries once its effectiveness has been proved, Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Saidi, Oman's health minister, was cited as saying by Times of Oman.
  • 27 July: Ministry of Health said to stop Covid-19 tests at government hospitals so that medical staff can focus on severe cases. Individuals showing symptoms of Covid-19 will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days or visit private hospitals for tests.
  • 26 July: Minister of Health, Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saidi, says his ministry is working with the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation to procure 700,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is produced.
  • 23 July: Supreme committee to oversee Covid-19 measures approves travel by air, with flight frequency to be increased gradually. Incoming travellers will have to complete 14 days of isolation. Specific dates have yet to be provided for the resumption of air travel.
  • 20 July: Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries chairs regional UN Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting on ways to address the impacts of Covid-19 on agriculture and food security in the region.
  • 13 July: Public Authority for Water (Diam) approves three-month package to provide financial relief for privately held small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the healthcare, education, travel and tourism, banking and journalism sectors. 
  • 12 July: Public Establishment for Industrial Estate (Madayn) cancels select entry and storage fees at Mazyouna Free Zone. Atomzlab, based in Madayn's National Business Centre, increases production of 3D-printed anti-microbial masks.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 113,938
  • Recoveries: 110,627
  • Deaths: 190

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 12 August: Ministry of Public Health updates list of low-risk countries for passengers. The new list of countries includes Brunei, Thailand, China, New Zealand, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, Finland, Norway, Italy, Denmark, the UK, Germany and Japan, among a total of 40. The list will take effect on 15 August, and passengers travelling from any of these 40 countries must take a Covid-19 test at the Qatari airport, formally pledge to self-quarantine for a week and get retested at the end of the week.
  • 12 August: Health ministry launches 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. Qatar also expects the screening programme to support its supply chain and testing operations during the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
  • 8 August: Negative Covid-19 test result mandatory for passengers from airports in Bangladesh, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Nigeria and Russia, Qatar Airways says. Tests must be issued within 72 hours before departure, from laboratories that are approved by Qatar Airways, and paid for at the passenger's expense. Individuals that do not show their medical test certificateand a consent form will not be permitted to travel on Qatar Airways flights. 
  • 3 August: New quarantine policies for individuals entering Qatar take effect. Those arriving from low-risk countries must take a Covid-19 test in Qatar unless they have results from an accredited testing centre from less than 48 hours before travel. They must also formally pledge to quarantine at home for a week and be tested again at the end of the week. Passengers travelling from countries not listed as low-risk and without accredited Covid-19 facilities must stay in mandatory quarantine at a hotel for seven days. Discover Qatar has launched special packages for these travellers.
  • 22 July: Doha says 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.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 2 August: Qatar residents who were stranded abroad following Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown can now apply for returning to the country, Indian daily Matrubhumi reports.
  • 26 July: Third phase of economic resumption begins tomorrow. Gatherings will be limited to 10 people in closed spaces and 30 in open spaces as part of this phase.
  • 22 July: Ministry of Public Health's list of low-risk countries – to be reviewed every two weeks – currently comprises 40 countries including China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Greece, Algeria, Turkey, Morocco, Canada and Switzerland, among others.
  • 21 July: Citizens and permanent residency visa holders allowed to travel from and return to Qatar. Residency visa holders may start returning from 1 August, and all arrivals from low-risk countries are required to take a coronavirus test at the airport and sign a formal pledge to adhere to quarantine at home for a week. Low-risk travellers are not required to be tested at the airport if they have results from an accredited test taken within 48 hours prior to their arrival.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 333,699
  • Recoveries: 290,244
  • Deaths: 18,988

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 11 August: President Hassan Rouhani calls for precautions to be abided by during Muharram and reiterates the country's focus on producing a vaccine.
  • 9 August: Rouhani says it is not feasible to implement severe anti-coronavirus restrictions in Iran, particularly as Covid-19 may persist for six months or until a vaccine is developed for it, since they "lead to depression and tensions in the society", Tehran Times reports. "Until we obtain a vaccine that is effective and get a sufficient quantity of it [...] we will be confronting this situation," he said, adding that continuing to observe health protocols remains a top priority.
  • 25 July: Rouhani urges population to observe caution during Eid al-Adha festivities in August.
  • 18 July: Rouhani says 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. Restrictions were reimposed for a week in 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.
  • 15 July: Museums in Tehran closed again for one week as virus numbers rise. Art and cultural centres, universities, schools, seminaries, English schools, libraries, movie theatres, museums, mosques, beauty salons and several other entities have also been shut down amid a sharp rise in the number of new cases and fatalities.  

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 10 August: Rouhani pledges to resolve economic challenges at a meeting of the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination. A proposal by an economic task force to counter oil sanctions and manage liquidity was discussed during the meeting. 
  • 27 July: Managing director of Iran's Food & Drug Administration says Actemra medicine, based on the tocilizumab drug, is being manufactured by a local company after the US' Food & Drug Administration said it may help recovery in Covid-19 patients. Actemra will not be available in Iranian drugstores and will be reserved for severe in-hospital cases. Permits have yet to be issued for its local use, news agency IRNA reported.
  • 19 July: Iranian health authorities clarify that Rouhani's statement that 25 million Iranians may have Covid-19 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, Reuters reports.
  • 15 July: Iran will start producing the antiviral agent remdesivir for the treatment of coronavirus patients next week, Health Minister Saeed Namaki says, according to Iran Press news agency.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 95,963
  • Recoveries: 55,901
  • Deaths: 5,085

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 12 August: Health ministry urges voters to comply with Covid-19 precautions while stepping outdoors to cast their ballot. Senate elections started on 10 August. 
  • 11 August: Head of anti-coronavirus scientific committee, Hossam Hosni, calls for precautions to be abided by and warns that a second wave of infections is expected during the coming winter season, Egypt Today reports.
  • 4 August: At least 256 cafes, nine educational centers and 9,912 shops have been shut down for violating Covid-19 precautionary measures. Egypt Today reports 66,836 public transport drivers have been arrested for failing to wear a mask.
  • 22 July: Government issues new restrictions to co-exist with Covid-19 with effect from 26 July. Beaches and parks to remain closed, with restaurants allowed to operate until midnight at 15 per cent capacity. Cinemas to operate at 25 per cent capacity, and commercial shops and malls to close at 10pm. The gradual return of Friday prayers will be studied, and official conferences or meetings will be allowed provided events are held with 50 participants or fewer in a hall that can accommodate at least 100 individuals.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 9 August: New academic year to begin on 17 October. 
  • 7 August: All travellers to Egypt by land, sea and air must arrive with a certificate proving that they have tested negative for coronavirus using a PCR test conducted within 72 hours of their arrival. The decision takes effect from 15 August.
  • 27 July: Head of health ministry's Covid-19 committee, Hossam Hosny, reportedly warns that the second wave of the illness could hit Egypt in November, adding that the country is ready for all scenarios. He added that the ministry now has a large stock of covalescent plasma as well.
  • 20 July: Parliament approves 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 to pay financial subsidies to workers in these sectors.
  • 18 July: Minister of Health Hala Zayed says 20 per cent of ventilators had been used in the past week in the country, down from 97 per cent at the peak of the virus. The country has reserved 30 million packets of a potential coronavirus vaccine set to be produced by a UK-based pharmaceutical company. She told Al-Hekaya TV show that the British company plans to produce up to 400 million packets. An Egyptian pharmaceutical company has also submitted a request to produce the vaccine, Zayed added.
  • 13 July: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi calls for completion of National Project for Self-Sufficiency of Plasma Derivatives, aimed at reducing the need for ventilators in Covid-19 patients and boosting recovery times. Health & Population Ministry warns disinfection gates may not be effective in workplaces, following similar advice from the World Health Organisation.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 160,436
  • Recoveries: 114,541
  • Deaths: 5,588

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 9 August: 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 and National Safety." Health restrictions to be observed during Muharram to be discussed at the end of this week. 
  • 8 August: Partial curfew extended till 15 August. Higher Committee for Health and National Safety, headed by Al-Kadhimi, also decides to permit 25 per cent of employees to work in government offices. "The recent increase in the number of infections is due to the visits by the citizens that violate the preventive measures, particularly during the Eid al-Adha holiday," said Riyadh Abdul-Amir, head of the ministry's public health department.
  • 5 August: Deputy Minister of Health Hazim al-Jumaili calls for greater adherence to precautionary measures, adding: "The current figures of infections and deaths are not expected and the citizens were supposed to abide by wearing masks, personal protection, social distancing, and preventing gatherings to cross the pandemic crisis. Every day, many gatherings occur and there must be deterrence."
  • 2 August: Iraqi aviation authority suspends flights to and from Turkey to curb Covid-19.
  • 27 July: Health Ministry official tells local official newspaper Al-Sabaah that implementing a partial ban may continue to be necessary after Eid al-Adha holidays. Full curfew confirmed from 30 July to 9 August.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 5 August: Al-Jumaili says return to normal life "is not on the table at the moment, but the Higher Committee for Health and 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 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. 
  • 13 July: Health ministry said to have provided 300 ventilators to medical institutions.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,303
  • Recoveries: 1,215
  • Deaths: 11

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 12 August: Prime Minister Omar Razzaz issues a circular prohibiting any employee or visitor from entering ministries, and public departments, institutions and places without wearing masks. Interior ministry closes Jaber border from 13 August. Jordan's shared border with Syria will be closed for one week to curb Covid-19 infections. 
  • 11 August: Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply on Tuesday, Tareq Hammouri, announces amendment of the curfew hours to 12am for individuals and 11pm for economic establishments based on the government matrix to measure Covid-19 risks. The measure will take effect from Saturday, national news agency Petra reports.
  • 10 August: Minister of State for Media Affairs, Amjad Adaileh, says Defense Order No. 11 was reactivated on 8 August due to a "lack of seriousness" in compliance with public health safety measures, including the size of gatherings, physical distancing and the use of masks.
  • 6 August: Repatriation of Jordanians from abroad to begin on 15 August. Citizens will be expatriated via flights from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Manama, Doha, Kuwait, Jeddah, Riyadh, Cairo, Budapest, Moscow, Nur Sultan, Frankfurt, New York, Chicago and Istanbul. 
  • 4 August: Curfew hours are reextended to start at 1am instead of 2am and working hours for businesses must end at 12am, with citizens not allowed to leave their houses after 1am. The government had previously decided to reduce the curfew by one hour during the Eid al-Adha holiday. Airport reopening is also delayed based on the recommendation of the National Committee for Epidemics. Airports will remain open to Jordanian citizens being expatriated and for non-Jordanians to leave, but are unlikely to fully reopen before mid-August.
  • 29 July: Electoral candidates cannot provide food or sweets during the upcoming election's campaigns, Independent Election Commission says. Candidates must instead supply hand sanitisers inside the electoral headquarters. General elections are to be held in Jordan this November.
  • 28 July: Truck drivers entering Jordan from Gulf countries via land borders must undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine, Roya News reports.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 10 August: Adaileh denies speculation and "inaccurate news" about Jordan reimposing a partial or total lockdown, adding that economic reopening since June has followed a matrix that adequately measures risks in each sector. "We are currently going through the moderate-risk phase, and there is no intention or direction to impose the lockdown, whether overall or partial, arbitrarily," he said, adding that any lockdowns would have a high economic and social cost.
  • 9 August: PM Omar Razzaz issues Defence Order No.15, which stipulates the expansion of social security programmes to include workers in the public sector by allowing them to obtain financial advances that will be repaid upon retirement without interest. The decision also includes exemptions for private sector companies that have outstanding social security payments, Roya News reports.
  • 7 August: Guidelines have been issued for the resumption of schools, with morning assemblies to be cancelled and breaks to be shortened, Minister of Education, Tayseer al-Nuaimi, says.
  • 26 July: Airports to resume flights at full capacity from 5 August. 
  • 22 July: Curfew reduced by one hour and will now be in effect from 1am-5am. Working hours for all economic activities have been extended until midnight. 
  • 21 July: List of low-risk countries updated and now includes Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, New Zeeland, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan and Monaco, in addition to those announced on 16 July. Passengers travelling from a red or orange status country must transit through a green status country for a 14-day period before travelling to Jordan, and anyone caught attempting to enter the country without completing 14 days in a green status country or providing invalid test results will face a JD10,000 fine, Roya News reports. Domestic flights will resume this week and the government plans to open international travel from early-August. 
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 7,413
  • Recoveries: 2,407
  • Deaths: 89

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 August: Health minister Hassan says Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Mohammad Fahmi, and Lebanese Army Commander, Joseph Aoun, have been contacted to discuss the isolation of some districts due to a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases. This excludes Beirut, where clean-up activities are under way.
  • 27 July: Health Minister Hamad Hassan slams lack of compliance with precautionary measures and confirms the country will reimpose a two-week lockdown from 30 July. Arab News reported he added that 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.” Passengers arriving through Beirut International airport must carry a negative Covid-19 test result from their port of departure and will have to stay in quarantine for two days at their own expense in special centers, pending the results of the second PCR test at the airport.
  • 14 July: Fines ranging from £Leb550,000 to £Leb5m said to have been introduced for individuals not wearing masks.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 12 August: World Health Organisation requests $76m to support Lebanese efforts to combat Covid-19 after Beirut blasts leave 500 to 600 beds unavailable in public and private hospitals. At least half of 55 healthcare clinics and centres surveyed in Beirut are said to be non-functioning.
  • 11 August: Health ministry within caretaker Lebanese government meets with Lebanese University official to discuss how the educational institution can support PCR testing operations for arrivals to the country, allowing the ministry to focus on increasing resident tests. 
  • 24 June: Reopened Rafik Hariri International airport to reduce number of flights from countries where the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are not available to passengers to 20 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Arab News reports. Flights from countries that have the test will be at 80 per cent of previous levels. Those arriving from countries with PCR tests must produce the results, which must be less than four days old, during check-in. All passengers must be tested at Beirut airport.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 36,694
  • Recoveries: 25,677
  • Deaths: 556

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 8 August: Laayoune Port closed until further notice to avoid a second wave of Covid-19.
  • 6 August: State of emergency extended until 10 September as part of efforts to curb Covid-19. Governors and local walis have also been given the right to take all necessary measures to preserve public health order, including the right to impose an optional or compulsory sanitary lockdown or temporary restrictions urging people to stay home. 
  • 4 August: Lockdown to be reimposed in the Tangier-Asilah and Fez provinces as Covid-19 continues to spread in both provinces. All gatherings are banned, and shops, cafés and commercial centers should close at 10pm. Restaurants must close at 11pm, and public transport in both cities will operate at 50 per cent capacity. Beaches and public spaces such as gardens, sports complexes and fields are also closed. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 11 August: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) announces support for small businesses and trade in Morocco with a $47m financing package to Crédit Immobilier et Hôtelier (CIH). The EBRD will provide a $23.4m loan for the CIH to provide as medium-term financing to private SMEs, increasing the availability of funding beyond the Greater Casablanca-Rabat region, where 70 per cent of the Moroccan economy is concentrated. The remaining amount will be provided as a trade finance line to help facilitate the export and import transactions of Moroccan businesses.
  • 10 August: Flag carrier Royal Air Maroc says special flight programme will continue until 10 September. Passengers on flights to Morocco must have a negative PCR test conducted in the past 48 hours, as well as the results of their serological tests. Children under the age of 11 are not required to have tests, but wearing masks is mandatory for all passengers.
  • 7 August: Tourism industry operators will be provided incentives provided they retain 80 per cent of their workforces. Employees impacted by Covid-19 will continue to receive a stipend of MBD2,000 dirhams ($200) per month, while operators will receive tax and loan payment deferments and eased access to bank loans, North Africa Post reports.
  • 6 August: Ministerial decision issued to reopen schools from 7 September. It has yet to be decided whether lessons will be delivered in-class, digital or through any other mode. 
  • 4 August: Qatari charity contributes to Morocco's Covid-19 response fund, which King Mohammed VI ordered the creation of in mid-March with initial funds of MBD10bn. 
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 6,611
  • Recoveries: 778
  • Deaths: 132

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19: 

  • 11 August: GNA's education minister-designate, Mihammed Emmari, says plan to resume schools and universities will be announced shortly. Previous plans to resume school activity on 8 August were cancelled based on medical advice, and online learning were expected to continue until secondary school exams ended in October.
  • 10 August: Mayor of Abu Salim Municipality and chairman of the Emergency Crisis Committee, Abd Arahman al-Hamdi, forms subsidiary committee comprising seven members to coordinate emergency plans and responses as local epidemiological situation worsens. Head of Libyan National Centre for Disease Control, Badr al-Deen Najjar, says case numbers are rapidly growing in Tripoli, Misrata and the southern region of the country. 
  • 7 August: Tripoli government extends curfew, including the 24-hour weekend curfew and the ban on inter-city travel, until 17 August, and masks are made mandatory in public. An LD 500 fine with the possibility of the withdrawal of a trading licence and the shutting down of the commercial premises for a month will be imposed for not mandating mask-wearing. Libya Herald reports an LD250 fine can be imposed for not wearing a mask in public transport, and breaking the curfew can attract an LD1,000 fine and the closure of a commercial office for two months.
  • 29 July: Curfew extended for five days from 5 August and movement to be prohibited between 9pm and 6am. Closures were also announced over the Eid al-Adha break. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 10 August: Government of National Accord's (GNA) health ministry receives shipment of 100,000 Covid-19 testing kits from Belgium. 
  • 9 August: Ministry of Health says critical medical supplies, including Covid-19 testing kits and PCR testing devices, have reached Matiga International airport to support national efforts to curb Covid-19.
  • 9 July: African Development Bank grants $480,000 to Libya under the Special Relief Fund for the procurement of personal protective equipment.
  • 8 July: National Oil Corporation (NOC) lifts force majeure at the Es-Sider oil terminal. Export resumption was blocked after guards prevented a tanker from being loaded.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,780
  • Recoveries: 1,278
  • Deaths: 52

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 11 August: France, Belgium and Iceland moved to 'orange zone' list of countries, starting 15 August. Arrivals from these nations must now present a negative PCR test conducted 72 hours prior to their trips. Passengers from green zones, in which the three European countries were previously classified, are not required to present negative test results. Tunisia has also mandated the use of masks in airports, railways, the port of La Goulette, hospitals, clinics and supermarkets. 
  • 10 August: Committee to curb Covid-19 expected to table a proposal today to the interim health minister, asking that negative PCR tests are mandated for all passengers to Tunisia, including those from green zone countries initially exempt from the measure. 
  • 8 August: A legal provision mandating the use of face masks in closed spaces will be issued next week, director of the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases, Nissaf Ben Alaya, says. Several new infections in Tunisia had been detected due to citizens returning from 'green zone' countries, Tunis Afrique Press (TAP) reports.
  • 27 July: New measures announced for arrivals from abroad. Members of the same family, coming from countries not classified on its 'green' or 'orange' safety lists, must go through mandatory isolation. Passengers from a country on the 'orange' list travelling without a Covid-19 test result will be in quarantine for at least three days until the Tunisian health ministry completes testing. As of 23 July, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland were part of Tunisia's green list. The orange list of countries according to the the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases covers 44 countries, including Canada, Greece, Turkey, Portugal, Morocco, Lebanon, Senegal and Cameroon.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 4 August: Health official said to deny that border re-closures are being considered as Covid-19 cases grow. Border closures may not be enough to curb Covid-19's spread, Nissaf Ben Alaya, director general of the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases, said to Al-Jawhara Radio according to Xinhua. She instead recommended that individuals comply with requirements such as social distancing and the use of masks.
  • 21 July: World Bank says international support package with macro-financial assistance from the EU for Tunisia will total $600-700m this year. The World Bank has approved $175m to support the reform package.
  • 13 July: 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. Deferral request comes as Tunisian economy braces for budget deficit to widen to 7 per cent of the GDP, Finance Minister Nizar Yaich says.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 36,699
  • Recoveries: 25,627
  • Deaths: 1,333

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 8 August: New curfew hours to be in place until 31 August, government says. The decision covers the Boumerdes, Souk Ahras, Tissemsilt, Djelfa, Mascara, Oum el-Bouaghi, Batna, Bouira, Relizane, Biskra, Khenchela, M’sila, Chlef, Sidi Bel Abbes, Medea, Blida, Bordj Bou Arreridj, Tipaza, Ouargla, Bechar, Algiers, Constantine, Oran, Setif, Annaba, Bejaia, Adrar, Laghouat and El-Oued provinces.
  • 7 August: Curfew hours reduced to 11pm to 6am, with the ban on road traffic for passenger vehicles from and to 29 provinces impacted by the curfew also lifted.
  • 26 July: Partial lockdown measures to be implemented for 15 days in 29 provinces to prevent the spread of Covid-19.  These will take effect from 28 July and include a curfew from 8pm-5am, as well as a ban on road traffic from and to the provinces.
  • 9 July: Road movement ban implemented for one week from 10 July in provinces including Boumerdes, Souk Ahras, Tessimsilt, Djelfa, Mascara, Oum El Bouaghi, Batna, Bouira, Relizane, Biskra, Khenchela, Msila, Chlef, Sidi Belabbes, Medea, Blida, Bordj Bou-Arreridj, Tipaza, Ouargla, Bechar, Algiers, Constantine, Oran, Setif, Annaba, Bejaia, Adrar, Laghouat and El Oued. Public transport was also barred over the weekend.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 2 August: President Abdelmadjid Tebboune signs decree amending and supplementing penal code, with new provisions including those for the protection of medical staff in the public and private sectors against verbal and physical attacks. The decree also provides for a sentence of one to three years for any verbal assault, three to 10 years for any physical abuse, depending on the seriousness of the act, and a life sentence in case the person attacked dies. For material losses, a sentence of two to 10 years will be handed out, in additional to fines of AD3m.
  • 27 July: Tax payments said to be suspended for state and private sector firms impacted by Covid-19. Loans will also be rescheduled for companies hit by losses due to restrictions to curb the pandemic. 
  • 18 July: Committee said to be established to assess the impact of the pandemic on the national economy.
  • 17 July: Algeria is planning a law to protect health workers after an increase in “physical and verbal attacks”, Gulf News reports. 
  • 9 July: State's special insurance to be granted to medical professionals directly involved with Covid-19 treatment.
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,841
  • Recoveries: 937
  • Deaths: 528

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, and 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 personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, ventilators, finance for the medical workers who work in the Covid-19 centres,” Dr Ba’aom said, according to UAE newspaper the National. “We also need medical equipment such as a complete biological units, testing kits, field hospitals and beds for the intensive care units (ICUs). Additionally, we still need food aid, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene.”
As of 10.30 GST, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,327
  • Recoveries: 385
  • Deaths: 53

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 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 personal protective equipment (PPE), are allowed to operate inside the Al-Hol IDP camp in Al-Hasakah governorate as cases mount in the country, including in the healthcare sector. 
  • 23 July: Local authorities in northeast Syria reinstate partial curfew, including the banning of all mass gatherings such as weddings and funerals, with restaurants limited to take-away service only. Borders are to close from 24 July. 
  • 7 May: Syria postpones parliamentary elections for second time from 20 May to 19 July as preventive measure to curb Covid-19.
  • 2 April: Syrian authorities seal major shrine that Iranian pilgrims are known to visit.
  • 29 March: Ban on commuting between provinces and all other urban and rural areas takes effect.

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, 13 August 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during July 2020.

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