The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 8,668,623 on 24 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.
Countries in the GCC account for 22.4 per cent (1,940,947) of all regional cases, and Iran’s 2,843,523 cases comprise 32.8 per cent of the Mena tally.
Since 17 May, 201,347 new cases have been reported in the 17 Mena countries tracked by MEED.
Inoculation programmes are advancing in the Mena region.
Vaccine-only access in Saudi Arabia
Vaccines manufactured by the US’ Johnson&Johnson and Moderna have been approved for visitors to Saudi Arabia, with the Health Ministry reaffirming approvals for the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs one day after the kingdom reopened travel borders on 17 May.
Last week, the Interior Ministry also confirmed access to select facilities and services would be limited to individuals that have already been vaccinated in Saudi Arabia.
From 1 August, individuals must be fully vaccinated to be able to enter economic, commercial, cultural, entertainment or sporting activities; cultural, scientific, social or entertainment events; the premises of government or private entities and educational institutes; and to use public transport. The Tawakkalna app will be used to check the immunisation status of citizens and expatriates.
Programme to vaccinate Chinese tourists in UAE
The UAE has secured pole position for the number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people. As of 24 May, the UAE has a rate of 122.39 doses administered per 100 people.
Over the past week, the country approved the administration of a third dose of the Sinopharm vaccine for individuals who received their second dose more than six months ago.
On 23 May, the UAE’s Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation Ministry and the Chinese embassy in the UAE launched a regional vaccination site in Dubai to provide the two-dose Sinopharm jab to Chinese nationals over the age of 16 who hold a short-term visa without UAE residency.
The expansion of the UAE’s vaccination programme comes as flights from India, one of the GCC’s largest travel markets, remains closed amid a deadly second wave of Covid-19.
Dubai-headquartered Emirates confirmed earlier this week that passenger flights from India will remain suspended until at least 14 June, and individuals who have transited through India in the past 14 days will not be able to travel from any other point to the UAE.
Flights to India were suspended on 24 April, with exemptions for Emiratis stranded in India, people with a UAE golden visa and members of diplomatic missions.
Muscat has received a batch of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine from China, which the sultanate’s Health Ministry has said will be prioritised for Chinese expatriates living in the country. The two-dose Sinovac shipment is understood to be part of a bilateral cooperation framework established by Oman and China.
The Justice, Islamic Affair & Endowments Ministry has restricted access to mosques for the five daily and weekly Friday prayers to worshippers aged 18 and above who have been fully vaccinated in the past 14 days or those who have recovered from Covid-19.
The BeAware Bahrain app will be used to track the implementation of the decision, which was taken in coordination with the Sunni and Jaafari Endowments.
The restrictions took effect on 21 May, with similar curbs implemented for entry to shopping malls; retail shops except supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and hospitals; indoor services such as restaurants, salons and cinema halls; and government offices and service centres.
Quarantine requirements have been updated in Kuwait, with fully vaccinated individuals or those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past 90 days no longer required to quarantine following travel, but must provide the negative result of a Covid-19 test conducted 72 hours after their arrival in the country.
A travel ban is imposed, starting 22 May, on Kuwaitis, their first-degree relatives and helpers if they do not receive a Covid-19 vaccine. Those who do not get inoculated for health reasons may be permitted to travel with the Health Ministry’s consent.
Dine-in services are permitted at restaurants and cafes in Kuwait from 23 May.
Countries in the wider Mena region are growing their Covid-19 vaccine stockpiles.
Iran has received 1,452,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Catalent Anagni (Italy) through the Covax facility. The country received the first batch comprising 700,800 doses manufactured by SK-Bio Institute of South Korea in April.
Cairo’s plans to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines are advancing, with Beijing sending the raw materials needed to produce the first batch of Sinovac in Egypt reaching the country on 21 May, alongside a shipment of Sinopharm doses.
Egypt’s Health Minister, Hala Zayed, said Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products & Vaccines (Vacsera) will produce more than 2 million vaccines in about two months.
Rabat has received further doses of the Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm vaccine, with more than 2 million doses arriving in the country on 23 May. The shipment comes after 2 million doses reached Morocco on 19 May. Local media reported Morocco has now received 8.5 million doses of its 40.5 million doses ordered from Sinopharm.
The Health Ministry said on 19 May that Libya had received 117,600 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which arrived at Mitiga airport through the Covax facility. It marks the second batch of the vaccine to arrive in Libya, after 57,600 doses were sent on 8 April, and the fifth vaccine shipment since the country’s first dose of Sputnik-V jabs were received on 4 April.
Libya is now understood to have 526,452 doses of three vaccines, with the Health Ministry expecting 12 million doses to meet local requirements.
Last week, the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) said it would supply 74 refrigerator units to help Libya build a cold chain for Covid-19 vaccines. Unicef plans to distribute the refrigerators to 46 municipalities across Libya.
Plans to fully reopen borders for travel were scrapped by Algiers last week, with the country instead proceeding with limited flights from 1 June.
On 18 May, Algeria said land borders would remain “closed unless necessary”. An average of five commercial flights will be operated each day to and from airports in Algiers, Oran and Constantine from 1 June.
Lead image: wam.ae
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