King Salman to chair extraordinary G20 meeting

26 March 2020
Virtual meeting to be held as GDP for G20 forecasted to contract by 0.5 per cent

Cases of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region continue to increase, with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud set to chair an extraordinary virtual meeting of the G20 in response to global concerns about the coronavirus' spread. 

The meeting comes amid projections by US ratings agency Moody’s that the G20’s overall GDP will contract by 0.5 per cent due to the new coronavirus. 

The last time that the G20 conducted more than its one required meeting was in 2010, at the height of the global financial crisis. The G20 is already due to meet in Riyadh this November. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are due to take part in the meeting.

Coronavirus cases in the GCC to date

The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) is calling on the King Salman-chaired meeting’s attendees “to prevent a catastrophic collapse following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, putting up to 75 million jobs at immediate risk”.

In a statement, WTTC said it implored G20 leaders to rescue travel businesses including airlines, cruises, hotels, technology companies, restaurants and other small- and medium-sized enterprises around the world. 

WTTC’s president and CEO, Gloria Guevara, said the global travel and tourism sector was in “unprecedented danger” of collapsing unless a “rescue package is agreed to bolster what has become the backbone of the global economy”.

She added: “A determined and decisive action by the G20 could reverse this, save millions from misery and bolster one of the main engines of future economic growth.”

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region grew from 28,759 on the morning of 25 March to 31,513 on the morning of 26 March. 

The GCC has 2,483 cases of Covid-19 on 26 March, while Iran has 27,017 cases with 2,077 deaths. 

Covid-19 in the Mena region – latest update:

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES
Saudi Arabia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 900
  • Recoveries: 29
  • Deaths: 2

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 25 March: Ministry of Interior clamps down travel between the country’s 13 regions, including banning entry to and exit from Riyadh, Mecca and Medina, with the daily curfew imposed on all three cities extended by four hours
  • 25 March: Saudi Post launches home deliveries to encourage social distancing

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:

  • 25 March: Riyadh says King Salman to chair extraordinary virtual summit of G20 leaders on 26 March to advance response to Covid-19
  • 25 March: Ministry of Commerce seizes 4.3 million stockpiled face masks in Jeddah amid efforts to meet local demand and curb unfair price hikes 

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 333
  • Recoveries: 52
  • Deaths: 2

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 25 March: All Abu Dhabi cultural sites shut down
  • 25 March: Dubai Economy orders at least 80 per cent of employees in non-vital private sector jobs, excluding pharmacies, cooperative societies, grocery stores and supermarkets, must work remotely, while other businesses to close until 8 April
  • 25 March: Ministries of Interior and of Health Prevention reveal National Disinfection Programme to sterilise utilities, public transport and metro services from 8pm on 26 March to 6am on 29 March, during which period public transport will be halted and residents must stay home

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:

  • 25 March: Abu Dhabi banks announce 17 financial relief initiatives for individuals and businesses as UAE cabinet approves AED86bn bill waiver for select subscribers of the Federal Authority of Water and Electricity, and labour ministry announces plan to automatically renew work permits and visas
  • 25 March: National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority and Emirates Red Crescent launch fund to regulate cash and kind donations for anti-coronavirus efforts
  • 25 March: Deputy Ruler of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Judicial Council HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum suspends eviction judgments relating to residential and commercial facilities and imprisonment judgments on all rent-related cases

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 419
  • Recoveries: 190
  • Deaths: 4

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 25 March: Parliament votes in favour of partial curfew to curb coronavirus spread
  • 26 March: Non-vital retail stores’ closure until 9 April to take effect today as police patrols stepped up to enforce Interior Ministry-recommended rules to encourage social distancing

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 24 March: State-backed developer Edamah to defer rent payments for retail, F&B and commercial portfolio in April-May
  • 25 March: MPs reportedly approve proposals to provide support to micro, small and medium companies affected by the pandemic; delay instalments on loans from places of work, housing and pensions for six months; and require banks and financing companies to comply with rules on delaying fees, interest, loans and credit card payments

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 195
  • Recoveries: 49
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 March: Partial daily curfew imposed and public holiday extended for two weeks after 26 March 
  • 25 March: National Guard quarantines citizens returning from Lebanon, Egypt and Bahrain 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 26 March: Trade ministry closes 14 stores for flouting coronavirus-prevention measures

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 99
  • Recoveries: 17
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 24 March: All international flights to be suspended from 29 March, except flights to Musandam and those carrying cargo
  • 25 March: Muscat Municipality sterilises public spaces in Muttrah 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 19 March: Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council approves financial allocations for food reserves and for Al Raffd Fund to support SME lending
  • 25 March: Royal Air Force of Oman sends aircraft to import medical equipment from China 

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 537
  • Recoveries: 41
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 21 March: Public parks and beaches closed to curb spread of Covid-19
  • 25 March: Foreign exchange offices to be closed temporarily 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 15 March: Doha commits QR75bn to private sector incentives. The government says state funds will be told to increase their investment in the local bourse by QR10bn and the central bank will provide additional liquidity to banks. Commercial banks will be encouraged to provide a six-month grace period on loan payments and private sector obligations

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 27,017
  • Recoveries: 9,625
  • Deaths: 2,077

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 24 March: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says government offices to be run in shifts with one-third of workforce at a time until 3 April, announces extension of prisoner furlough until 1 April and asks TV companies to promote delivery companies for free. Government calls to shut workplaces and cancel gatherings until 3 April and postpone weddings and funerals
  • 25 March: Internal travel banned and government warns of ‘second wave’ of the outbreak, with Rouhani promising containment regulations that could “create difficulties” for Iranians, the BBC reports

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 12 March: Iran requests $5bn in emergency funding from the IMF for the first time since 1962
  • 13 March: Economy Ministry appeals to World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Opec Fund for International Development for financial aid and non-cash support
  • 24 March: Hossein Mir Shojaian Hosseini, Iranian representative to World Bank, slams the authority for not inviting the republic to a Mena-focused meeting on Covid-19 containment
  • 25 March: Health minister’s advisor rules out help from “foreign forces” after non-profit Médecins Sans Frontières offers in-country assistance following delivery of medical equipment to Iran

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 456
  • Recoveries: 95
  • Deaths: 21

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 24 March: Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announces daily curfew between 7pm and 6am for 15 days from 25 March. Shops will be closed between 5pm and 6am every day, and on Fridays and Saturdays. Restaurants, cafes, and entertainment venues, as well as non-healthcare civil services departments to also be closed as confirmed cases reach 366
  • 24 March: Air travel suspension extended for two weeks as Egypt says “all options on table” to avoid entering third stage of pandemic’s spread
  • 25 March: Curfew takes effect with support from local security forces
  • 25 March: Disinfection work begins at Egyptian archaeological sites including the Great Pyramid of Giza

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 22 March: Electricity and natural gas prices for the industrial sector reduced by $0.0064 and $4.5 respectively, and £E1bn to be granted to exporters as part of their dues in March-April
  • 22 March: El-Sisi says £E100bn package includes £E50bn for tourism and to help hotels continue operations, £E20bn for the national bourse and £E27.6bn in direct disbursements for 10 million citizens
  • 25 March: Madbouly instructs ministers to draw up action plan and scenarios for post-pandemic economic situation 
  • 25 March: Egyptian Endowments commits £E50m for those impacted by Covid-19 economic downturn

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 346
  • Recoveries: 103
  • Deaths: 29

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 February: Border with Iran, the regional hotspot of Covid-19, closed amid criticism that the move was long-delayed
  • 27 February: Schools, universities and cinemas in Baghdad closed, and large public gatherings, including those of religious nature, banned across the country
  • 10 March: State-run Basra Oil Company reduces and amends staff shifts, and curbs employee travel, to protect oil output against Covid-19 
  • 22 March: Public curfew extended till 28 March to encourage social distancing
  • 25 March: Civil defence officials brought in to enforce curfew after public violations continue 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 25 February: Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals backs factory producing 30,000 face masks per day for sale to citizens at discounted prices
  • 12 March: One day after the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Health Minister Jaafar Allawi says Iraq needs $150m per month to purchase equipment and materials to fight the virus, with the Finance Ministry accepting donations from banks, government and private institutions.
  • 14 March: Kurdistan Regional Government’s spokesperson Mohammed Khoshnaw reportedly says “significant medical support” had yet to be provided to Iraq, adding that international support will be needed if cases increase
  • 23 March: President Barham Salih urges people to stay home to reduce burden on vulnerable healthcare infrastructure

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 172
  • Recoveries: 1
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 March: Jordan signals start of indefinite curfew at 7am by air-raid sirens sounding across capital city Amman after the decision to impose the curfew – which covers all businesses, including supermarkets and pharmacies – was announced at 4pm the previous day
  • 24 March: Government starts trial runs of home deliveries for medicines, fuel and foodstuff to the country’s population of 10 million 
  • 24 March: Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Hala Zawati says cooking gas distribution agencies and vehicles are exempted from curfew as demand for gas cylinders grew amid unusually cold weather conditions
  • 25 March: Government relaxes curfew to allow people to walk to corner shops, groceries, bakeries and pharmacies  

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 15 March: Central Bank of Jordan’s governor Zaid Fariz tells Reuters commercial banks have been asked to delay payments of loan instalments by companies and to allow the rescheduling of retail loans without penalties to support private sector and individual borrowers
  • 25 March: King Abdullah II of Jordan announces plan to import malaria drugs from Tunisia as the IMF approves a four-year $1.3bn loan for Jordan after the kingdom committed to structural reforms

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 333
  • Recoveries: 20
  • Deaths: 6

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 15 March: President Michel Aoun declares state of medical emergency as country issues decree to close borders with Syria for the first time in about 40 years. 
  • 15 March: Beirut International airport closed and 15-day lockdown announced, excluding bakeries, pharmacies, food stores, banks and health institutions. Churches cancel Sunday prayers and Islamic authorities suspend Friday prayers for the next two weeks
  • 21 March: Prime Minister Hassan Diab reportedly deploys “the army, Internal Security, General Security and State Security” bodies to enforce social distancing rules  

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 20 March: Finance minister Ghazi Wazni reportedly says Beirut is studying financial restructuring cases to salvage its crisis hit banks, weeks after Lebanon defaulted on a foreign debt payment for the first time on 9 March
  • 23 March: Lebanon says it will stop paying dollar-denominated eurobonds “to protect the reserve from foreign currencies […] and in view of the increasing pressure to access foreign currencies”
  • 24 March: Association of Banks announces decision to provide $6m for medical equipment

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 225
  • Recoveries: 7
  • Deaths: 6

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 13 March: Government suspends passenger flights and ferry crossings to Spain, France and Algeria and temporarily closes schools after first case emerged on 2 March
  • 14 March: Flight suspensions extended to 25 other countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Oman and the UAE
  • 15 March: All international flights suspended
  • 16 March: Interior Ministry closes restaurants, cinemas, sports halls and other entertainment venues
  • 19 March: State of medical emergency declared for 20 March to 20 April, with banks, fuel stations and other critical businesses exempted from the lockdown 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 16 March: Moroccan King Mohammed VI orders establishment of MD10bn fund to rehabilitate the health sector and support vulnerable economic sectors impacted by Covid-19, such as tourism
  • 26 March: Head of the Moroccan government Saad Eddine El Otmani reportedly orders public sector offices except health and security services to put off hiring new employees until the end of the pandemic

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1
  • Recoveries: 0
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 14 March: Tripoli government reportedly closes schools for two weeks; suspends all public gatherings and events and shuts restaurants, cafés and mosques; and announces closure of Libya’s land, sea and air borders for three weeks from 16 March
  • 22 March: Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya declares country-wide curfew (6pm to 6am) for all non-vital sectors as health ministry announces plan to build a quarantine centre at Mitiga airport 
  • 23 March: Eastern Libya to be under lockdown for 10 days
  • 24 March: UN-backed Tripoli government announces first confirmed Covid-19 case in the country

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 3 March: Export subsidy adviser at economy ministry says Chinese imports to Libya will be reduced as Covid-19 spreads (source: Libya Observer)
  • 14 March: Al-Sarraj government in Tripoli declares state of medical emergency and allots LYD500m for anti-coronavirus measures
  • 23 March: Libyan Health Ministry mulls Chinese offer on medical training as additional ventilators are imported

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 173
  • Recoveries: 2
  • Deaths: 5

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 13 March: Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh says government to suspend prayers in mosques, close cafés at 4pm every day, and ban all cultural, sports and economic gatherings after national maritime borders were closed 
  • 23 March: Army brought in to enforce lockdown 

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 15 March: Ministry of Finance asks citizens for donations to help tackle coronavirus
  • 17 March: Tunisian central bank cuts its key interest rate by 100 basis points and government reduces growth forecast for 2020 from 2.7 per cent to 1 per cent
  • 22 March: Fakhfakh unveils TND2.5bn package to delay tax debts, postpone taxes on small- and medium-sized businesses, delay repayment of low-income employee loans and provide financial assistance to poor families

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 302
  • Recoveries: 65
  • Deaths: 21

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 March: Government issues a ban on spectators at sports events, and on political, social and cultural gatherings
  • 12 March: President Abdelmadjid Tebboune orders schools and universities to close 
  • 15 March: Algeria’s state carrier Air Algerie to suspend all flights to and from France from 17 March
  • 16 March: Algeria to suspend all air and sea travel with Europe and Africa, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad says 
  • 20 March: Anti-government protests called off for the first time in a year  
  • 20 March: Government to suspend public transport, close cafes and restaurants, tell half its state employees to stay home and order security forces to tighten the bar on public gatherings, Reuters reports
  • 23 March: Presidency says Algeria will impose a curfew in the capital Algiers from 7pm-7am and a full lockdown in the town of Blida, which has Algeria’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, for 10 days from 24 March

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 22 March: Government allocates DZD12.3bn to import pharmaceutical products and equipment

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 0
  • Recoveries: 0
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 19 February: Yemen says its citizens studying in China were evacuated by the UAE and are being quarantined 
  • 14 March: Yemeni Cabinet cancels flights to and from the country’s airports for two weeks, and orders school closures for one week 
  • 17 March: Sports events suspended and judiciary suspends activity in the courts
  • 23 March: Saudi Arabia airlifts critical WHO to Yemen, including personal protective items for health workers, and trauma medication and supplies as Yemeni government reportedly suspends schools and universities until 30 May
  • 24 March: WHO’s representative in Yemen Altaf Musani tells Arab News the organisation is “scaling up preparedness and response efforts in the event a case is confirmed” as 500 Covid-19 testing kits are delivered to Sanaa and Aden

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 23 March: Yemeni planning minister Najib al-Aweg says the World Bank and the International Finance Cooperation have allocated $26.7m to help Yemen tackle Covid-19
  • 26 March: Warring parties welcome UN’s call for an immediate truce amid coronavirus fears

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 5
  • Recoveries: 0
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 March: Damascus says scientific, cultural, social and sporting events will be halted, and public institutions will be closed or staffed at 40 per cent of normal levels and operate during reduced hours
  • 21 March: Education Minister Imad al-Azab says schools to be closed until 2 April, and government delays 13 April parliamentary elections to 20 May as Friday prayers at mosques are suspended till 4 April
  • 22 March: Public transport banned after closure of parks and restaurants, government plans to deliver bread to homes after closing bakeries and President Bashar al-Assad issues prisoner amnesty. Damascus International airport closed to commercial traffic and newspapers cease print editions
  • 25 March: Curfew takes effect as Interior Minister issues warning about detentions for violators

As of 12.00 GST, 26 March 2020

 

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