The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 8,294,991 on 10 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.
Countries in the GCC account for 22.3 per cent (1,849,954) of all regional cases.
Iran’s 2,673,219 infections make up 32.2 per cent of the Mena total.
Since 3 May, 235,389 new Covid-19 cases have been reported in the 17 Mena countries tracked by MEED.
Saudi Arabia Covid-19 update
As Ramadan draws to a close and Eid al-Fitr approaches, Riyadh has updated coronavirus-related regulations for employees in Saudi Arabia.
All public and private sector employees wishing to attend a workplace in Saudi Arabia will be required to be vaccinated.
“Receiving a coronavirus vaccine will be a mandatory condition for male and female workers to attend workplaces in all sectors (public, private, non-profit)," Saudi Arabia’s Human Resources & Social Development Ministry said on 7 May.
“The ministry will soon clarify the mechanisms of the decision and its implementation date.”
Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj & Umrah Ministry is also in discussions regarding overseas visitors performing the Hajj pilgrimage this year.
Allowing a small number of pilgrims into the kingdom under strict health and precautionary measures is an option under discussion, the ministry is reported to have said on 8 May.
Employees working directly or indirectly on this season’s Hajj must be inoculated.
Indian Covid-19 variant in Mena
Algeria and Morocco have detected their first cases of the Indian variant of Covid-19, B.1.617 over the past week.
Algeria’s Pasteur Institute said the country had confirmed six cases of the variant in the coastal province of Tipaza, west of the capital, Algiers.
Morocco said on the same day it had identified its first two cases of the variant, adding that their contacts had been isolated to avoid contagion.
B.1.617 has been detected in more than 17 countries to date, and travellers from India have been banned by most markets amid global concern about the variant.
UAE Covid-19 update
New guidelines have also been issued for tour guides, desert camp operators and hotels in Abu Dhabi.
The capital’s Department of Culture & Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi) issued the new measures.
According to the update, 20 people are allowed to participate in tours of open spaces and up to 10 people may visit closed spaces as part of a single tour.
Social distancing and other precautionary measures are mandated.
Oman has issued restrictions for a week starting 8 May to curb the spread of Covid-19. This includes the extension of a ban on all commercial activities, with the movement of people and vehicles also prohibited from 9pm to 4am. Offices must work remotely from 9 May until 11 May, and private sector companies have been urged to reduce the number of employees in offices.
Eid al-Fitr prayers or pre-Eid souqs (habtas) are also no longer permitted, according to reports, and a ban is implemented on family or Eid gatherings, or mass celebrations of Eid.
Tunisia is also implementing a partial lockdown for the week-long Eid al-Fitr holidays, with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi reportedly warning the country is experiencing “the worst health crisis in its history”.
“Health institutions are at risk of collapse,” he said.
Mosques, markets and non-essential businesses are said to be closed under the new restrictions. Travel is banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations are prohibited, and a 7pm-5am curfew has been imposed.
Egypt has also introduced new curbs ahead of Eid. Closing hours for stores, malls and restaurants were brought forward to 9pm for two weeks from 6 May.
Large gatherings and concerts will be banned over the same period and beaches and parks will be shut between 12-16 May.
Some regional countries are lifting restrictions. Jordan’s curfew hours will be reduced by three hours from the first day of Eid al-Fitr and adjusted to 10pm-6am instead of 7pm-6am. Individuals will be allowed to move from 6am to 11pm. Amman expects the decision will help to restore economic activity as the severity of the crisis eases in Jordan.
It is reported that Doha also plans to ease restrictions through a four-phased programme, with the first phase to begin on 28 May and the final one on 30 July.
Each phase will be about three weeks long, and the first phase will allow a maximum of five vaccinated people to meet indoors.
Inoculation drives are picking up in most parts of the region.
Bahrain plans to provide booster shots to individuals that have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Reports say priority categories for the booster shots are individuals aged 60 and above, people suffering from obesity or immunodeficiency diseases, and frontline medical workers, who will receive the third dose six months after the second.
Other groups of citizens and foreign residents will receive booster shots 12 months after receiving the second dose.
Kuwait is amending inoculation schedules to contend with global shortages of the vaccine. The Health Ministry said last week it would postpone the second doses of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines amid shipment delays.
The second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be given four weeks after the first one. As an exception, individuals aged over 60 will receive their second dose after 21 days.
The second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be given between three to four weeks after the first shot, instead of 12 weeks after the first dose.
In Iran, the plan is to vaccinate its 13 million people by late July to reduce the coronavirus-related death rate, President Hassan Rouhani said on 9 May.
“We hope that the supply and import of vaccines will reach a definite procedure with the desired speed so that there are no inconsistencies and obstacles in this direction.”
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