The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 9,022,560 on 7 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.
Countries in the GCC account for 22.8 per cent (2,054,582) of all regional cases, and Iran’s 2,966,363 cases comprise 33 per cent of the Mena tally.
Since 31 May, 166,401 new cases have been reported in the 17 Mena countries tracked by MEED.
Evolving vaccination plans are driving the introduction of new regulations for travel and outdoor movement in the region.
Saudi Arabia eases quarantine rules
In Saudi Arabia, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) has lifted quarantine obligations from travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are among the approved vaccines. Foreign travellers who have received all necessary doses of these vaccines will not be required to quarantine upon arrival in Saudi Arabia. They must also show vaccine certificates attested by authorities in their home country.
Unvaccinated travellers are required to quarantine for at least seven days.
GCC countries approve new Covid-19 treatment
The UAE’s Health & Prevention Ministry has approved the emergency use of GSK and Vir Biotechnology’s sotrovimab (Vir-7831) treatment for Covid-19.
Sotrovimab is endorsed by the US’ Food & Drug Administration, and is said to reduce hospitalisation for more than 24 hours and cut fatalities by 85 per cent when administered as an early treatment.
The UAE’s authorisation of the emergency use of sotrovimab, which is a monoclonal antibody, covers the treatment of patients aged 12 years or older with mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms, who may be at risk of progression to hospitalisation or death.
Bahrain became the third Gulf country to approve sotrovimab, and its confirmation followed Kuwait’s, which earlier this week said it would use the antibody for mild to moderate Covid-19 cases.
The UAE and Bahrain have also started to offer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as a booster shot to those who initially received China National Pharmaceutical Group’s Sinopharm jab.
In Abu Dhabi, the booster shot is available six months after the second dose has been administered, a representative of Mubadala Health told Reuters. A different vaccine can be provided as a booster shot at the recipient's discretion.
The Emergency, Crisis & Disaster Committee in Abu Dhabi has issued new rules allowing family members to be seated at the same table while dining in restaurants and cafés, with no limit on seating numbers.
The facilities must adhere to the approved capacity of 60 per cent and maintain other precautionary measures. The new rule took effect on 5 June.
Oman eases Covid-19 restrictions
Citizens of Oman and other Gulf countries will be allowed to enter Oman through its land borders daily for work under new rules issued earlier this week.
Oman’s travel ban has been extended for individuals from:
- Sierra Leone
Entry is also barred for travellers from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, as well as anyone who has been in any of the banned countries in the past 14 days, from 5 June.
Commercial activities will be allowed to resume at 50 per cent capacity and social events including weddings will be allowed at 30 per cent capacity.
Bahrain to manufacture Sputnik
The sovereign wealth funds of Manama and Moscow have agreed to localise the manufacturing of the Sputnik V vaccine in Bahrain.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mumtalakat Holding and Binnopharm Group, а subsidiary of Russian company Sistema, signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a vaccine production facility in Bahrain to manufacture and distribute the Russian coronavirus vaccine across the Mena region.
RDIF did not provide information on the capacity of the planned manufacturing facility.
Egypt to manufacture Sinovac
Cairo’s plans to manufacture the Chinese-developed Sinovac vaccine are advancing.
Local production of the first batch of Sinovac will begin in Egypt by the end of June, Health Minister Hala Zayed said last week.
Khaled Mujahid, the Egyptian health ministry’s spokesman, said Chinese experts were in Egypt to supervise the manufacturing process and transfer expertise to both the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products & Vaccines (Vacsera), which will manufacture the jabs, and the Egyptian Drug Authority.
Plans are in place to grow the number of daily vaccinations in Egypt, with the country aiming to inoculate half of its population by the end of 2021.
Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad said last week that the aim is to provide 500,000 vaccines a day in Egypt. The country is currently vaccinating about 110,000 people a day and more vaccination centres are being opened by the health ministry to speed up the process.
Wider Mena Covid-19 update
Last week, Amman received a shipment of 146,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by Oxford-AstraZeneca from the Covax facility, making it the third batch to reach Jordan through the alliance. Health Minister Feras Hawari said Jordan aims to increase the number of administered vaccine doses to 3 million by the end of June 2021.
Rabat plans to ease travel restrictions and allow international passengers from 15 June as the country prepares for the tourism season to commence. Passengers from countries that have the coronavirus and its variants under control will be able to enter Morocco after submitting a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test. Travellers from countries experiencing a surge of Covid-19 variants or lacking reliable data must obtain a special permit and submit a negative test, as well as undergo a 10-day quarantine upon arrival.
The World Health Organisation will begin vaccinations in northern Yemen, where areas are under Houthi control, this week. The WHO's representative in Yemen, Adham Abdel-Moneim, said 10,000 vaccine doses arrived at Sanaa airport last week. Reuters reported only healthcare workers will be given the shots initially.
Damascus has received a first shipment of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Syria’s ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, did not say how big the shipment was, but told Russian media the vaccine was being administered to the public after doctors and the country's senior leaders received the first shots.
A MEED Subscription...
Subscribe or upgrade your current MEED.com package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.