The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 9,197,882 on 14 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.
Countries in the GCC account for 22.9 per cent (2,108,484) of all regional cases, while Iran’s 3,028,717 infections continue to account for 33 per cent of the Mena case tally.
Since 7 June, 175,322 new cases have been reported in the 17 Mena countries tracked by MEED.
These infections are being recorded alongside the significant progress that is being made in terms of vaccination programmes in the region, particularly in the GCC.
Saudi Arabia confirms Hajj rules
Similar to 2020, a limited number of pilgrims will be permitted to carry out Hajj this year, Saudi Arabia said on 12 June.
Only 60,000 residents vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to perform this year’s Hajj.
The decision restricts Muslims from abroad for the second year.
Hajj 2021 is expected to commence on 17 July, and will be limited to vaccinated individuals aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses. About 10,000 Muslims took part in Hajj 2020.
The kingdom’s foreign affairs ministry has also launched an electronic service allowing visitors outside Saudi Arabia to extend the validity of their visit visas that expired due to the entry ban on travellers from 20 countries. The validity of these unused visas can be extended until 31 July at no cost.
Two-thirds of eligible Dubai residents fully vaccinated
Inoculation efforts are also ramping up in the UAE, where two-thirds of Dubai’s residents have received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
Dubai Health Authority’s deputy director general Alawi Alsheikh Ali told Dubai Television on Saturday that 83 per cent of people aged over 16 – about 2.3 million people – have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 64 per cent have received two doses.
Abu Dhabi drops UK from travel list
Starting on 13 June, travellers to Abu Dhabi from the UK will need to quarantine upon arrival after Britain was removed from the UAE capital’s ‘green list’ for travel due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The UK had been on Abu Dhabi’s green list since April. The UAE is on the UK’s red list for travel, meaning travellers flying to the country from Dubai or Abu Dhabi must self-isolate in a hotel.
Other regulatory updates in Abu Dhabi include allowing residents with expired visas to take the coronavirus vaccine, after the government dropped the requirement for anyone taking the jab to have a valid residency visa or Emirates ID.
Abu Dhabi also said last week that from 15 June it would restrict entry to shopping malls, restaurants, cafes, gyms, hotels and their facilities, public parks, beaches, swimming pools, entertainment centres, cinemas and museums to those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently tested negative.
The Alhosn Covid-19 app, which displays an individual's vaccination and testing history, will be used to admit entry.
King Hamad bin Isa has issued a directive to provide vaccine doses to Bahraini nationals unable to get immunised abroad. Lockdown measures announced on 27 May have also been extended and will continue on 11-25 June.
More than 1 million people in Bahrain, comprising about 80 per cent of the country’s eligible population, have been inoculated with the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The US’ Johnson&Johnson vaccine was approved for emergency use in Kuwait last week, making it the fourth vaccine in the country after the jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca. Last week, Health Minister Basel al-Sabah said further deliveries of Moderna and Johnson&Johnson doses were expected by the last quarter of this year.
“We are approaching herd immunity, but there are challenges, including the lack of vaccines,” he told local media.
Kuwait is gradually easing some restrictions, with the cabinet permitting the resumption of direct flights to the UK, as well as the reopening of museums and cultural institutions and facilities, from 13 June.
Private hospitals in Oman have begun vaccinating en masse after the health ministry permitted private sector cooperation to speed up inoculation efforts. About 12 per cent of the sultanate’s population is estimated to have been vaccinated so far.
More than half of Qatar’s population aged 16 and above has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. About 50.4 per cent of the eligible population has received two doses and 67.1 per cent has received one dose.
Local media reported that in the group of people aged 40 and above, 86.2 per cent have received one dose and 73.5 per cent have received both jabs. In addition, 93.8 per cent of those aged 60 and above have received the first dose and 86.6 per cent of the 60-plus age group is fully vaccinated.
Forty-four per cent of the Mena region’s Covid-19 cases are in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and Syria.
Vaccine shortages are acute in several parts of the wider the Mena region.
Alireza Naji, head of Iran’s Virology Research Centre and member of the national Covid-19 management committee, told the state-run newspaper Iran Daily that vaccine shortages are partly due to delays from the producers of the Chinese Sinopharm and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines, which have not honoured their commitments.
Tehran was slow to place orders for vaccines and plans to launch at least one locally made vaccine by the end of this month. Naji said Sinopharm was scheduled to deliver 3 million additional doses but has yet to complete the shipment.
Vaccine production efforts are ramping up in Egypt, which received 500,000 doses of China's Sinovac vaccine last week. Cairo is also scheduled to begin the Chinese vaccine’s local production this week after receiving raw materials for the manufacturing of 2 million Sinovac doses in May. The first vials are due to be produced on 15 June and up to six weeks will be needed for checks before they are put to use in vaccination centres.
Health Minister Hala Zayed said Egypt expects raw materials for a further 4.2 million Sinovac doses this month and plans to produce 40 million doses for use in Egypt and the rest of Africa this year.
Baghdad is intensifying efforts to improve vaccination rates in the country, with new measures announced last week to clamp down on violators.
From 1 September, vaccines will be a prerequisite for renewing or granting health licences, and workers in shops, restaurants, malls, labs and other public facilities that are found to be violating these requirements will be fined and required to close those facilities.
Government employees, students and teachers will be banned from working unless they provide a vaccination document or a negative PCR test report on a weekly basis, and from 1 October, all Iraqis wishing to travel abroad are required to present proof of receiving Covid-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test report.
Lead image: Haidan/Unsplash
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