Latest on coronavirus impact on Middle East

04 June 2020
4 June: Covid-19 cases top 465,000 in Mena

President Rouhani warns of tightened restrictions as fears of second wave hit Iran

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 464,384 on 4 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

 

The GCC has 245,412 confirmed cases of Covid-19, accounting for 52.8 per cent of all infections in the Mena region.

Regional epicentre Iran has confirmed 160,696 Covid-19 cases to date, with 125,206 recoveries and 8,012 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 3 June that restrictions would be reintroduced if illness peaks again in Iran. 

His announcement comes amid fears that a second wave has hit Iran.

The country recorded its second-highest surge in coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak after 3,117 people tested positive for the virus in 24 hours earlier this week.

Government employees went back to work and mosques resumed daily prayers on 30 May as part of the relaxation of Iran’s lockdown.

Covid-19 in the Mena region:

(4 June 2020)

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 91,182
  • Recoveries: 68,159
  • Deaths: 579

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 2 June: Precautionary measures and guidelines introduced for more sectors, including factories, mining, internal aviation, intercity buses, car rental vehicles, ferries at Jizan and Farasan Islands, tourist accommodation facilities, postal and logistics services and farms.
  • 31 May: Interior ministry revises regulations on gatherings and penalties. Preventive protocols introduced for mosques, offices, oil and gas facilities, construction sites and offices and restaurants, among other sectors.
  • 30 May: Saudi Arabia could return to extreme precautionary restrictions if the number of Covid-19 patients exceeds the medical sector’s capacity, Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah told Al-Arabiya. “Public awareness and adherence to precautionary measures is essential to continue the ease of restrictions," he added.

 Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 2 June: Mobile laboratory to conduct Covid-19 tests launched in Medina. It has a daily capacity of 10,000 tests and is manned by 84 medical professionals.
  • 1 June: Al-Ula tourism site to reopen in October. Saudi Shoura Council approves draft system for the Tourism Development Fund. 
  • 31 May: Business activity and domestic flights resume, and 90,000 mosques reopen with precautions in all provinces except Makkah.
  • 26 May: Saudi Arabia starts to lift restrictions, with three-phased programme to bring the nationwide curfew to an end on 21 June, except in Mecca. Mosques authorised to reopen with restrictions, but Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages remain suspended.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 36,359
  • Recoveries: 19,153
  • Deaths: 270

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 31 May: Movement prevented to and from Abu Dhabi as well as transit within its regions for one week from 2 June. Dubai introduces new guidelines for mask usage outdoors.
  • 30 May: National Disinfection Programme timings amended to 10pm-6am in all emirates except Dubai. 
  • 20 May: Disinfection to begin two hours earlier in industrial areas. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 3 June: Transit flights will be resumed at Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah international airports and be operated by local carriers Etihad, Emirates, Flydubai and Air Arabia. Passenger flights remain suspended until further notice.
  • 2 June: Shopping malls and private businesses permitted to operate at full capacity from today.
  • 1 June: Ras Al-Khaimah outlines requirements to reopen restaurants, cafés and gyms from 3 June. 
  • 31 May: Abu Dhabi raises mall capacity and the capicity of restaurants within malls to 40 per cent. Hotel beaches, restaurants outside malls and museums also allowed to reopen with a capacity of 40 per cent, but public beaches remain closed.
  • 30 May: More business activities resume in Sharjah and Ajman and Dubai Culture reveals plan to reopen museums on 1 June. 
  • 28 May: UAE Government announces 30 per cent of federal ministry employees will work from offices starting 31 May, with exemptions to be made for high-risk individuals.
  • 27 May: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, says 50 per cent of Dubai Government employees to return to work from 31 May, with all Dubai government employees to return from 14 June.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 12,815
  • Recoveries: 7,410
  • Deaths: 20

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 3 June: Plans to resume Friday prayers this week postponed.
  • 1 June: Edamah temporarily closes Bilaj Aljazayer beach after non-compliance noted during Eid al-Fitr holidays.
  • 1 June: Health measures for outdoor training activities issued for registered professional athletes. The club or federation must prepare a timetable for pre-booked training sessions and no walk-ins will be allowed. Face masks are mandatory and social distancing is to be followed.
  • 19 May: Lower Criminal Court fines owner of a commercial outlet BD1,000 for flouting health regulations that include measuring the temperature of customers and workers before entering the outlet, directing customers to stand 1 metre apart, cleaning and sterilising trolleys before and after use and ensuring workers wear protective gloves. The court has also fined four defendants BD1,000 each for beaching the home quarantine rules imposed on them. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 31 May: Flag carrier Gulf Air resumes flights to Pakistan.
  • 28 May: Shura Council reportedly plans to revisit existing legislation and modify it as necessary amid Covid-19.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 29,359
  • Recoveries: 15,750
  • Deaths: 230

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 May: Kuwait makes wearing masks in public mandatory, with jail time threatened for violators.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 2 June: Expatriates' residency permits and visas due to expire in June extended for three months.
  • 1 June: Parliament to reconvene on 16 June and discuss the government's response to Covid-19 as its first priority. The parliamentary term will be extended to compensate for the suspension of sessions because of the outbreak.
  • 31 May: Twelve-hour partial curfew from 6pm to 6am starts today as part of a five-phase plan to gradually return to normal life, and mosques will reopen. Al-Farwaniya, Khaitan, Holi, Jleeb Al Shuyoukh and Mahboula will remain under lockdown.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 13,537
  • Recoveries: 2,845
  • Deaths: 67

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 3 June: Tourism ministry issues guidelines for hotels, including instructions such as transparent face masks for receptionists, hand sanitisers for guests, and keeping swimming pools and gyms closed until further notice.
  • 18 May: Supreme committee announces ban on all gatherings related to Eid, such as livestock auctions, prayers, greeting gatherings and group celebrations.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 30 May: Fifty per cent of Muscat employees permitted to return to offices, but Muttrah wilayat remains in isolation.
  • 18 May: Muscat Municipality permits flower shops, boutiques and shops for women's clothing, shops selling beauty products, utensil shops and communication service halls to reopen, provided they adhere to social distancing and apply precautionary measures and safety requirements. Consulting, law and auditing offices; shops selling construction materials; brick factories; carpentry workshops; blacksmiths; and aluminium companies are also allowed to reopen.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 62,160
  • Recoveries: 37,542
  • Deaths: 45

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 May: Qatar will close all shops and halt all commercial activities on 19-30 May to curb Covid-19. The closure excludes pharmacies, food supply stores and food deliveries, UAE daily newspaper Gulf News reports.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 14 May: Face masks are reportedly mandatory for anyone going outdoors from 17 May.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 160,696
  • Recoveries: 125,206
  • Deaths: 8,012

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 3 June: President Hassan Rouhani says restrictions will be reintroduced if illness peaks again in Iran. Government employees went back to work and mosques resumed daily prayers on 30 May as part of the relaxation of Iran's lockdown.
  • 2 June: Namaki says people becoming "completely careless" is causing case numbers to grow in Iran again, adding: "They either have total confidence in us or think the coronavirus has gone. The latter is not true at all."
  • 1 June: Health minister Saeed Namaki says Iran must prepare for a second wave of the illness if people do not follow social distancing and other precautionary measures.
  • 10 May: Abadan county placed under lockdown after case numbers sharply grow as people flout social distancing rules.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 30 May: Government employees resume work and shopping malls permitted to stay open past 6pm. Mosques to reopen for daily prayers.
  • 26 May: Plans reported to reopen major shrines across the country, as well as 'high-risk' businesses such as restaurants, cafes and wedding halls in Tehran.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 28,615
  • Recoveries: 7,350
  • Deaths: 1,088

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 3 June: Parliament warns against crowding in food markets. 
  • 1 June: Prisons sterilised and prisoners provided PCR tests to curb Covid-19.
  • 31 May: Government to provide 30 million fabric face masks each month, Egypt Today reports.
  • 20 May: New cleaning campaigns launched in North Sinai cities.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 1 June: Cairo to discuss resumption of flights and establishment of maximum price limit for Covid-19 treatment, Egypt Today reports citing cabinet spokesman Nader Saad.
  • 21 May: Cabinet approves 1 per cent cut in state workers' salaries to curb spending amid Covid-19. Some hotels open in Hurghada for domestic tourists.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 8,168
  • Recoveries: 4,095
  • Deaths: 256

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 1 June: World Health Organisation says extension of lockdown is necessary in Iraq.
  • 30 May: Government imposes full curfew in Baghdad and Iraqi provinces for a week starting from 31 May.
  • 18 May: Kurdistan 24 reports two-week curfew from 20 May in Baghdad's Sadr, Kadhimiya, 9 Nissan and Mansour districts.
  • 11 May: Curfew extended to run from 5pm to 5am daily, and full lockdown planned for Eid al-Fitr.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 3 June: Legislature hears first draft of law allowing finance minister Ali Allawi to borrow “from international financial institutions and foreign banks to finance public expenditures”.
  • 30 April: Iraq is seeking additional financial assistance from the US, according to Bloomberg.
  • 26 April: Washington grants Iraq a 30-day extension to a waiver allowing the country to import Iranian gas for its dilapidated power grids despite American sanctions.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 757
  • Recoveries: 561
  • Deaths: 9

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 3 June: Comprehensive curfew announced for 5 June, with worshippers allowed to walk to mosques for Friday prayers.
  • 2 June: Reopening date yet to be set for airports in Jordan, chairman of commissioners' board at Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission, Haitham Mesto, tells Roya News. Airports will reopen gradually after it has been ascertained that it is safe to do so.
  • 20 May: Full curfew announced from Thursday midnight to Sunday midnight. Lockdown restrictions also eased, allowing citizens to move using their vehicles until 11 pm on 20 and 21 May, with odd and even licence plate numbers to move on different days.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 31 May: Employers impacted by shutdown allowed to slash May and June payroll by 30 per cent as long as employees are in agreement and the reduction does not push the employee wage beyond the statuary minimum pay. Reductions must start with the senior management team. 
  • 30 May: Mosques and religious sites gradually planned to reopen this week after public-sector employees returned to work last week.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,256
  • Recoveries: 724
  • Deaths: 27

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 31 May: Full lockdown imposed in the village of Majdal Anjar in Bekaa, east Lebanon, for five days.
  • 19 May: Prime Minister Hassan Diab reportedly says lockdown will be imposed again with unprecedented measures if citizens do not adhere to social distancing rules.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 1 June: Lebanon may resume flights on 21 June if two-week decline in cases is observed.
  • 22 May: 'State of general mobilisation' extended until 7 June. The Daily Star reports Beirut plans to systematically reopen the country, but concerns of a second wave persist.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 7,922
  • Recoveries: 6,866
  • Deaths: 206

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 May: Lockdown extended to 10 June as case numbers continue to grow.
  • 19 April: Lockdown extended to 20 May.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 3 June: Post-lockdown measures to be discussed during monthly parliamentary meeting on 11 June, North Africa Post reports.
  • 1 June: Commerce ministry issues safety guidelines as businesses plan to reopen after lockdown ends on 10 June.
  • 20 May: Arab Monetary Fund extends $127m loan to help Morocco combat Covid-19.
  • 11 May: Central Bank asks local banks to withhold dividends this year to mitigate the financial impact of Covid-19.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 196
  • Recoveries: 52
  • Deaths: 5

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19: 

  • 11 April: UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, says need for immediate end to hostilities in Libya discussed with Stephanie Turco Williams, the deputy head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
  • 30 March: At least 466 prisoners reportedly freed to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 10 April: Libya receives medical supplies from Turkey’s National Defense Ministry.
  • 5 April: State of emergency continues in Libya as former Prime Minister  Mahmoud Jibril reportedly dies from coronavirus.
  • 14 March: Al-Sarraj government in Tripoli declares state of medical emergency and allots LD500m for anti-coronavirus measures.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,087
  • Recoveries: 965
  • Deaths: 49

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 29 May: Tunisian President Kais Saied announces extension to the state of emergency in the country by six months starting from 30 May.
  • 19 April: Lockdown extended till 4 May.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 3 June: Work to resume at 100 per cent capacity in public administration offices from 4 June, and mosques, places of worship, hotels and restaurants to reopen as well. Party halls to reopen with enclosed halls to operate at 50 per cent capacity and open areas at full capacity with adequate hygiene measures.
  • 3 June: Arab Monetary Fund grants $59m loan facility to Tunisia. A second loan is also being considered to support reforms in the financial and banking sector. 
  • 1 June: Land, sea and air borders to reopen on 27 June as Tunisia seeks to prop up economy through tourism revenues.
  • 21 May: Mosques, restaurants and cafés to reopen from 4 June, with universities suspended till at least 8 June, Andalou Agency reports.
  • 20 May: EU council approves $657.3m loan for Tunisia.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 9,733
  • Recoveries: 6,218
  • Deaths: 673

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 28 May: Lockdown extended from 30 May to 13 June to curb Covid-19.
  • 19 May: Algeria extends curfew for Eid al-Fitr holiday. Restrictions will be imposed from 1pm-7am in most provinces and 5pm-7am in other parts, Reuters Africa reports.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 11 May: Algiers laboratory, in partnership with Canadian and Jordanian companies, starts production of Covid-19 testing kits with a detection time of 15 minutes and a production capacity of 200,000 units per week.
  • 9 May: Government approves hike of 2-7 per cent in retirement pensions despite financial challenges facing the country.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 419
  • Recoveries: 17
  • Deaths: 95

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 4 May: Public areas including government buildings, markets and mosques to be sprayed with disinfectant as local authorities move to curb Covid-19.
  • 11 April: Authorities in the southeast Yemen province of Hadramout move to curb Covid-19 in the port city of Al-Sheher by imposing further measures, where the country’s first case was announced on 10 April. A curfew from 6pm to 6am has been imposed in all cities of the province, and Hadramout governor Faraj Salmen al-Bahsani has urged residents to comply with the measures and stay indoors as much as possible.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 2 June: International donors pledge $1.35bn in aid for Yemen. Saudi Arabia's contribution totals $500m, with the UK offering $200m and Germany contributing $140m.
  • 18 May: Yemen’s Health Minister Nasser Ba’aom and Minister of Local Administration Abdul Raqib Fatah appeal for international aid. “We need personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, ventilators, finance for the medical workers who work in the Covid-19 centres,” Dr Ba’aom said, according to the National. “We also need medical equipment such as a complete biological unit, testing kits, field hospitals and beds for the intensive care units (ICUs). Additionally, we still need food aid as well as water, sanitation and hygiene.”
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 123
  • Recoveries: 53
  • Deaths: 6

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 7 May: Syria postpones parliamentary elections for second time from 20 May to 19 July as preventive measure to curb Covid-19.
  • 2 April: Syrian authorities seal major shrine that Iranian pilgrims are known to visit.
  • 29 March: Ban on commuting between provinces and all other urban and rural areas takes effect.

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:

  • 25 May: Damascus eases lockdown restrictions to support economic growth, but repatriation flights put on hold as recently returned Syrians are treated.
  • 3 May: President Bashar Al Assad says Syria could face a "real catastrophe" if Covid-19 cases grow.
As of 10.30 GST, 4 June 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during May 2020.
 
3 June: Covid-19 cases cross 450,000-mark in Mena

Dubai allows malls and offices to reopen at full capacity as UAE recoveries top 18,700-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 452,581 on 3 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 89,011 infections to date, yesterday opened a mobile laboratory in Medina.

The lab has a daily capacity of 10,000 tests and is manned by 84 medical professionals.

To date, Saudi Arabia has confirmed 65,790 recoveries from Covid-19, with 549 deaths due to the illness.

In the UAE, where 35,788 infections have been confirmed to date, Dubai has furthered the resumption of business activity.

Shopping malls and private businesses have been permitted to operate at full capacity from today.

Malls and companies must operate while outdoor movement is permitted, the timings for which are currently 6am to 11pm. 

The UAE has reported 18,726 recoveries and 269 deaths so far.

2 June: Covid-19 cases reach 441,374 in Mena

Regional epicentre Iran's cases cross 150,000-mark as health minister warns of second wave

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 441,374 on 1 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

With 232,623 infections confirmed to date, the GCC accounts for 52.7 per cent of all cases in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia accounts for the majority of Covid-19 cases in the GCC region, with 87,142 infections confirmed to date, including 64,306 recoveries and 525 deaths.

The UAE has 35,192 confirmed Covid-19 cases, meanwhile, with 18,338 recoveries and 266 deaths.

Iran, the regional epicentre of Covid-19, has confirmed 154,445 Covid-19 cases to date.

The country has recorded 121,004 recoveries and 7,878 deaths due to the illness, with Health Minister Saeed Namaki warning of a second wave of infections unless social distancing measures are complied with.

“The outbreak is not over yet and at any moment it may come back stronger than before,” Namaki said.

 
1 June: Covid-19 cases cross 430,330-mark in Mena

GCC cases account for 52.7 per cent of Mena region's total infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 430,334 on 1 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

With 226,606 infections confirmed to date, the GCC accounts for 52.7 per cent of all cases in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 85,261 Covid-19 infections to date, with 62,442 recoveries and 503 deaths reported so far.

On 31 May, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry revised regulations on gatherings and penalties for flouting precautionary measures. 

Preventive protocols have also been introduced for mosques, offices, oil and gas facilities, construction sites and offices and restaurants, among other sectors.

Precautionary guideline updates were also announced in the UAE, which has confirmed 34,557 infections to date, with 17,932 recoveries and 264 deaths.

Abu Dhabi barred movement to and from the emirate on 31 May for a week from 2 June.

Movement is also banned within the emirate’s Abu Dhabi, Al-Ain and Al-Dhafra regions during the period.

To date, 272,959 recoveries have been confirmed in the Mena region, with 11,078 deaths due to the illness.

31 May: Covid-19 cases near 420,000-mark in Mena

Recoveries total 259,497 across 17 Mena countries with more than 10,900 deaths reported

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 419,138 on 31 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

So far, 259,497 recoveries from Covid-19 have been reported in the Mena region, with 10,903 deaths due to the illness.

The GCC region accounts for 52.5 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 83,384 Covid-19 cases to date, with 58,883 recoveries and 480 deaths.

The kingdom could return to extreme precautionary restrictions if the number of Covid-19 patients exceeds the medical sector’s capacity, Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah told Al-Arabiya. 

“Public awareness and adherence to precautionary measures is essential to continue the ease of restrictions,” he added.

Mosques will reopen today with capacity restrictions all across Saudi Arabia, except in Mecca.

Curbs are similarly being eased in the UAE, where 33,896 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed to date, with 17,546 recoveries and 262 deaths.

On 27 May, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, said 50 per cent of Dubai Government employees will return to work from today, with the in-office capacity returning to pre-coronavirus levels on 14 June in Dub

27 May: Covid-19 cases top 378,000-mark in Mena

Reopening gets under way across the region as governments seek to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 377,823 on 27 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 195,079 cases, accounts for 51.6 per cent of all confirmed infections in Mena.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 76,726 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 48,450 recoveries and 411 deaths.

A three-phased programme is under way to gradually reopen businesses in Saudi Arabia, with the nationwide curfew expected to end on 21 June, except in Mecca.

Reopening is also under way in Dubai, where cinemas, gyms, retail stores, clinics, sports academies and recreational venues have been allowed to reopen with precautionary measures in place.

Hotels in Abu Dhabi have also been provided with guidelines for conducting operations once their reopening is permitted.

The UAE has confirmed 31,086 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 15,982 recoveries and 253 deaths.

21 May: Covid-19 cases pass 320,000 in Mena

GCC has 157,415 total confirmed infections in the Middle East and North Africa to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 319,711 on 21 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has confirmed 157,145 Covid-19 cases to date, with Saudi Arabia accounting for 62,545 of these infections.

To date, 33,478 recoveries and 339 deaths have been reported in the kingdom.

Kuwait has 17,568 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 4,885 recoveries and 124 deaths.

Researchers in Kuwait have developed polymerase chain reaction-based coronavirus tests that are expected to reduce the need for imports in the country.

To date, 176,942 recoveries from Covid-19 have been reported in the Mena region, with 9,631 deaths confirme

20 May: Regional Covid-19 cases total 309,528

Outdoor movement further restricted across the Middle East and North Africa ahead of Eid al-Fitr

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 309,528 on 20 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region has 150,490 cases, accounting for 48.6 per cent of the Mena total.

Restrictions are being eased on businesses in the region, but outdoor movement restrictions are being tightened as the Eid al-Fitr holiday approaches.

In Oman, Muscat Municipality announced on 19 May that flower shops, boutiques and shops for women's clothing, shops selling beauty products, utensil shops and communication service halls are allowed to reopen. Consulting, law and auditing offices; shops selling construction materials; brick factories; carpentry workshops; blacksmiths; and aluminium companies are also permitted to resume work.

The UAE announced on the same day that QuantLase Imaging Lab, the medical research arm of the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange-listed International Holdings Company, had developed equipment that speeds up the process of mass screenings, with test results available in seconds. This will enable testing on a wider scale.

The device is suitable for use in hospitals and public places including cinemas and shopping malls, as well as for in-house testing and monitoring.

19 May: Mena Covid-19 cases near 300,000-mark

UAE announces tighter curbs and fines as regional countries prepare for Eid al-Fitr

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 299,577 on 19 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Around 19 per cent of these cases are in Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 57,345 infections to date, with 28,748 recoveries and 320 deaths.

The GCC accounts for 48 per cent of all cases in the Mena region. 

The UAE has confirmed 24,190 cases to date, with 9,577 recoveries and 224 deaths.

On 18 May, the UAE announced that the National Disinfection Programme will be extended by two hours from 20 May to run between 8pm and 6am every day. 

Malls and commercial centres may operate between 9am and 7pm, with revised timings to be announced after Eid al-Fitr. 

The regulations also provide for continuing closure of educational institutions, cinemas, sports and recreational facilities, open markets, parks, coffee shops, restaurants, beaches, gymnasiums, public swimming pools and hotels swimming pools. 

The regulations define the number of allowed cars and passengers, as well as not wearing the face mask in closed public places, shopping malls, public transport, while walking in crowded public places, while travelling in a private vehicle with two or more occupants or in shared labour accommodation.

Penalties have been raised for all violations of government-issued precautionary measures.

To date, 162,339 recoveries have been recorded from Covid-19 in the Mena region, with 9,397 deaths due to the illness.

18 May: More than 290,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Saudi Arabia issues penalties for violation of social distancing rules as GCC cases approach 138,000-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 290,238 on 18 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region has 137,706 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, while Iran has reported 120,198 infections so far, making it the Mena region’s worst-hit country for the illness.

The regional epicentre of Covid-19 has reported 94,464 recoveries and 6,988 deaths.

In Saudi Arabia, 54,752 cases have been confirmed with 25,722 recoveries and 312 deaths.

To date, 586,405 polymerase chain reaction tests have been carried out in the kingdom to test for Covid-19.

On 17 May, the Saudi interior ministry announced new fines for violating social distancing and attending gatherings.

First-time violators will pay SR10,000 ($2,666), and organisers of illegal gatherings, attendees and those sending invites will pay SR5,000. 

Fines will double when violations occur for a second time, and if the venue of the gathering belongs to the private sector, it will be closed for three months, and six months if the offence is repeated.

To date, the Mena region has recorded 155,636 recoveries in patients with Covid-19, with 9,280 deaths caused due to the illness.

17 May: Covid-19 cases top 281,000-mark in Mena

The GCC region accounts for 46.7 per cent of these cases, with 131,193 confirmed infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 280,910 on 17 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 46.7 per cent of these cases, with 131,193 infections confirmed to date.

Saudi Arabia has the GCC’s highest number of Covid-19 cases, with 52,016 confirmed infections, 23,666 recoveries and 302 deaths.

Qatar has 30,972 cases with 3,788 recoveries and 15 deaths, making it the GCC’s second worst-hit country for Covid-19.

The UAE has 22,627 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 7,931 recoveries and 214 deaths.

On 14 May, Dubai Customs launched a stimulus package that includes initiatives such as a refund of 20 per cent on the customs fees imposed on imported products sold locally in Dubai from 15 March to 30 June.

Dubai Customs also confirmed the cancellation of the AED50,000 bank guarantees or cash required to undertake customs clearance activity and its decision to refund these amounts where applicable.

Outside the GCC, Iran has 118,392 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 93,147 recoveries and 6,937 deaths.

To date, the Mena region has confirmed 150,068 recoveries and 9,179 deaths due to Covid-19.

14 May: Covid-19 cases cross 254,000-mark in Mena

UAE's Sheikh Mohammed says ministries might be merged to achieve efficiencies in post-pandemic governance

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 254,245 on 14 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran and the GCC now account for 44.3 per cent each of all cases in the Mena region.

Expanded testing capacity is driving the discovery of new cases in the GCC.

The UAE alone has conducted more than 1.56 million tests to date.

So far, 20,386 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the UAE, with 6,523 recoveries and 206 deaths due to the illness.

On 13 May, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, pointed to government restructuring plans as part of a wider strategy to achieve post-pandemic growth.

Following the conclusion of a three-day government meeting to develop a post-virus strategy, Sheikh Mohammed said the structure and size of the government must be reviewed, adding: “We may merge ministries […] and change bodies.”

Sheikh Mohammed also issued the granting of 10-year visas to Dubai Health Authority workers on the frontlines of fighting Covid-19.

To date, the Mena region has recorded 135,559 cases of Covid-19 recoveries, with 8,864 deaths reported due to the illness.

 
13 May: More than 246,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Saudi Arabia announces total lockdown over Eid al-Fitr as Dubai further eases curbs on malls

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 246,176 on 13 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Regional epicentre Iran accounts for 45 per cent of these cases, with 110,767 confirmed infections.

Iran has also reported 88,357 recoveries and 6,733 deaths to date.

Outside Iran, the GCC region has 107,264 cases, with the majority of these infections located in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has 42,925 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 15,257 recoveries and 264 deaths.

On 12 May, Saudi Arabia announced a 24-hour curfew for the Eid al-Fitr holidays on 23-27 May. 

Economic activities will remain open and people can move freely between 9am to 5pm until then in all parts of the kingdom except Makkah, which remains under full curfew.

Meanwhile, the easing of curbs continues in the UAE, where Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management has further relaxed restrictions on outdoor social conduct.

The refund and return of goods and the use of fitting rooms at shopping malls and retail outlets is now permitted, with previous precautions remaining in place. 

Public parks have opened as well, but gatherings may not exceed five people. 

Hotels are allowed to reopen their private beaches only to their guests while enforcing stringent preventive measures, the most important of which is mandatory physical distancing between individuals. 

Sports and recreational activities will be permitted in open spaces for up to five people, including cycling, water sports and skydiving.

The Mena region has recorded 130,828 recoveries of Covid-19 patients and 8,770 deaths due to the illness.

 
12 May: Mena Covid-19 cases near 240,000-mark

Iran plans to open all mosques while Jordan readies for businesses to reopen

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 238,252 on 12 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 101,610 infections, with Saudi Arabia the worst-hit Gulf country for Covid-19 cases.

Saudi Arabia has reported 41,014 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 12,737 recoveries and 255 deaths.

Qatar has the GCC’s second highest number of Covid-19 cases, including 23,623 infections, 2,840 recoveries and 14 deaths.

Iran is the Mena region’s most affected country, with 109,286 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 87,422 recoveries and 6,685 deaths.

Reports say mosques will reopen across Iran from 11 May even as case numbers keep growing in the country. 

Mosques and religious centres will open for special ceremonies held in the last 10 days of Ramadan, but social distancing measures are to be observed.

Several countries in the Mena region, including Tunisia and Jordan, have started to gradually ease restrictions imposed to curb the illness.

To date, 125,712 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region, with 8,678 deaths caused due to Covid-19.

11 May: Covid-19 cases cross 230,000-mark in Mena

Saudi Arabia triples VAT in new austerity drive as Covid-19 stunts economic growth

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 230,924 on 11 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Saudi Arabia, which has 39,048 infections of the new coronavirus, has announced surprising moves to mitigate the economic shocks posed by the pandemic.

The kingdom has suspended the cost of living allowance from June and tripled value-added tax (VAT) to 15 per cent from 1 July.

Saudi Arabia’s SR100bn of approved spending cuts also include cancelling, extending or postponing operating and capital expenditures.

To date, Saudi Arabia has reported 11,457 recoveries and 246 deaths due to Covid-19.

Outside the GCC, Iran has 107,603 infections, with 86,143 recoveries and 6,640 deaths. 

It remains the worst-hit regional country for Covid-19.

While curbs have been eased in Iran over the past few weeks, on 10 May the Abadan county was placed under lockdown after case numbers sharply grew as people flouted social distancing rules in the country.

To date, the Mena region has reported 121,491 recoveries and 8,599 deaths due to the pandemic.

10 May: Covid-19 cases top 224,000 in Mena region

Iran accounts for 47.6 per cent of all confirmed infections to date with 106,220 cases

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 223,346 on 10 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

With 106,220 cases, Iran accounts for 47.6 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

The country has reported 85,064 recoveries and 6,589 deaths due to Covid-19 to date.

The GCC region has 91,505 cases of Covid-19, more than one-third of which are in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has confirmed 37,136 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 10,144 recoveries and 239 deaths.

Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry has started to ease the lockdown in some parts of Medina, allowing residents to leave their homes between 9am and 5pm.

Outdoor movement curbs have also been eased in the UAE, where 17,417 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed to date, with 4,295 recoveries and 185 deaths.

To date, 117,743 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region.

Meanwhile, 8,294 deaths have been reported due to Covid-19

7 May: Covid-19 cases cross 203,000-mark in Mena

Iran now has more than 101,000 cases of Covid-19, with the Mena region reporting 107,623 recoveries to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 203,279 on 7 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran’s number of infections has crossed 101,650 this week, with the regional epicentre of Covid-19 now accounting for 50 per cent of all cases in Mena.

To date, the country has reported 81,587 recoveries and 6,418 deaths.

Saudi Arabia has the Mena region’s second-highest number of cases, with 31,938 confirmed infections, alongside 6,783 recoveries and 209 deaths.

Neighbouring UAE has 15,738 confirmed Covid-19 cases, making it the region’s third worst-hit country for the illness. 

So far, 3,359 recoveries and 157 deaths have been reported in the country.

On 6 May, Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development issued a reminder to shopping mall owners and managers about ensuring full compliance to precautionary measures as their facilities reopen. 

Non-compliance risks a fine of up to AED10,000 for mall owners and the closure of the facility.

So far, the Mena region has recorded 107,623 recoveries from Covid-19, with 8,177 deaths to date.

6 May: Almost 197,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Iran cases approach 100,000-mark as regional recoveries top 104,000

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 196,866 on 6 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran has 99,970 cases of the illness, with 80,475 recoveries and 6,340 deaths. 

The second-highest number of cases in the region is in Saudi Arabia, where 30,251 Covid-19 infections have been confirmed to date.

The kingdom has recorded 5,431 recoveries and 200 deaths due to Covid-19.

Saudi Arabia continues to enforce precautionary measures to curb Covid-19’s spread.

The Interior Ministry said on 5 May that people flouting measures to curb the coronavirus would be sent to jail.

To date, the Mena region has recorded 103,955 recoveries from Covid-19, with 8,051 deaths due to the illness.

5 May: Mena has more than 190,000 Covid-19 cases

Easing of lockdowns under way in Iran, Tunisia and Jordan this week

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 190,874 on 5 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Regional epicentre Iran continues to lead the region for Covid-19 infections. 

To date, 98,647 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in the country, with 79,379 recoveries and 6,277 deaths.

The death toll grew by 74 in the past 24 hours. 

Mosques are due to reopen in 132 low-risk Iranian towns and cities as part of a plan to relax restrictions in the country.
Lockdowns are being eased elsewhere in the Mena region as well.

On 4 May, Tunisia started to partially ease restrictions on economic activity.

Government administrations, public transport and construction projects were allowed to resume, according to media reports.

Jordan also announced the easing of restrictions earlier this week.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Tareq Hammouri said all economic sectors are allowed to reopen at their full production capacity from 6 May, provided that the number of Jordanian workers is not less than 75 per cent than the total.

4 May: Covid-19 cases cross 185,000-mark in Mena

Algeria slashes budgeted spending by half as infection numbers continue to grow regionally

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 185,549 on 4 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Regional epicentre Iran accounts for 52.5 per cent of all Mena cases, while the GCC has 36.5 per cent of the total infections.

Saudi Arabia has 27,011 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 4,134 recoveries and 184 deaths due to the illness.

The kingdom’s Ministry of Labour & Social Development has issued guidance covering private business owners and employees during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Private sector businesses are permitted to reduce working hours and cut employees’ wages during the next six months, in accordance with their daily or weekly working hours. 

However, wages cannot be reduced by more than 40 per cent of the total salary, and employers are required to resume paying full wages after six months.

It is understood employees cannot object to the pay cut as long as it does not exceed the agreed 40 per cent.  

Business owners also have the right to approve the timings of their employees’ annual leave depending on work conditions. 

Employers given the right to use these measures are not exempted from state subsidies granted to help private sector companies affected by Covid-19, but they may not terminate employment contracts until the six-month period has concluded.

Mena countries, excluding Iran and the GCC countries, account for 11 per cent of Covid-19 cases in the region.

Algeria accounts for 21.8 per cent of Covid-19 cases outside Iran and the GCC.

The country has 4,474 confirmed infections, with 1,936 recoveries and 463 deaths.

On 3 May, the country’s second public spending cut was announced, with the reduction widening from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. 

The government expects energy revenues to fall to $20.6bn from the $37.4bn expected earlier this year. 

Algeria's current $60bn foreign currency reserves will drop to $44.2bn by the end of 2020, down from a previous forecast of $51.6bn. 

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has reportedly refused to approach the IMF and foreign banks for funding support.

 
3 May: Mena region has 180,520 Covid-19 cases

The UAE says it has discovered supportive treatment that can help overcome the symptoms of Covid-19

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 180,519 on 3 May, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 35.6 per cent of all Mena cases, totalling 64,316 infections. The majority of these are in Saudi Arabia, which has 25,459 cases of Covid-19, with 3,765 recoveries and 176 deaths due to the illness.

Saudi Arabia’s government is planning deeper expenditure cuts and tightening curbs in large provinces such as Dammam in response to Covid-19.

Dammam will be isolated and entry and exit to the province will be prevented from 3 May until further notice, the Saudi Ministry of Interior said on 2 May.

Additional precautionary measures have been implemented, and residents may only step outdoors between 9am and 5pm, Arab News reported.

On 2 May, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said the kingdom would have to “sharply” reduce its budget expenditures to contend with the economic impact of the pandemic. 

Al-Jadaan added that all options are open to enforce savings once citizen welfare commitments have been met.

The UAE has the GCC’s third-highest number of Covid-19 cases. To date, the country has confirmed 13,599 infections, with 2,664 recoveries and 119 deaths.

On 1 May, the Ministry of Economy granted a patent for new supportive treatment that helps overcome Covid-19 symptoms using stem cells. 

A team of doctors and researchers at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cell Centre developed the treatment, which involves extracting stem cells from the patient’s blood and activating them prior to reintroducing them. 

The patent was granted for the method through which the stem cells are collected. 

The potential breakthrough was administered in the UAE to 73 Covid-19 patients who inhaled the treatment after it had been nebulised into a fine mist.

It is hypothesised to regenerate lung cells and modulate the immune system to keep it from overreacting to the Covid-19 infection and causing further damage to healthy cells.

30 April: Mena Covid-19 cases cross 166,000-mark

Yemen confirms first deaths due to Covid-19 as regional case numbers mount

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 166,189 on 30 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 54,830 of Mena's total cases, accounting for 33 per cent of the regional number.

Saudi Arabia makes up 39 per cent of the GCC’s total cases, with 21,402 confirmed infections.

To date, the kingdom has also reported 2,953 recoveries and 157 deaths. 

In Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, 93,657 cases have been confirmed to date, with 73,791 recoveries and 5,957 deaths.

Yemen reported its first deaths due to Covid-19 on 29 April.

Across the Mena region, 89,676 recoveries have been reported to date, with 7,427 deaths confirmed so far.

29 April: Mena Covid-19 cases exceed 161,000

Infections cross 20,000-mark in Saudi Arabia as more regional countries resume commercial activity

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 161,461 on 29 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran’s share in the regional number of cases is flattening, with the country accounting for 57.3 per cent, or 92,584, of all Mena infections.

So far, Iran has reported 72,439 recoveries and 5,877 deaths related to Covid-19.

More than 51,760 cases have been confirmed in the GCC region, where Saudi Arabia alone has 20,077 cases.

To date, 2,784 individuals have recovered in the kingdom, with 152 deaths caused due to Covid-19.

While some sectors have resumed activity in Saudi Arabia, social distancing and other health precautions remain in place due to the severity of the new coronavirus.

More than 250,000 temporary accommodation spaces have been identified to house foreign workers in Saudi Arabia during Covid-19.

On 28 April, Medina govenor Prince Faisal bin Salman approved measures to deal with illegal and cramped housing sites in residential neighbourhoods inhabited by 17,000 migrant workers. 

The committee studying migrant workers’ housing in Medina also allocated 800 residential complexes for these workers.

Additionally, the committee reconfigured housing sites in 215 locations, moving about 3,000 workers to hotels or other sites, to reduce overcrowding and mitigate transmission risks.

Economic activity is also partially resuming in Oman, which has 2,131 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 364 recoveries and 10 deaths.

On 28 April, the Supreme Committee created to combat Covid-19 approved the resumption of work in commercial centres including vehicle repair stores, car and spare parts shops, home appliance outlets and money exchange stores, in addition to quarries and stone crushers.

To date, 87,252 recoveries have been reported in the Mena region, with 7,297 deaths recorded due to Covid-19.

28 April:  Covid-19 cases top 157,000 in Mena

GCC countries account for 31.2 per cent of the total confirmed infections in the region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 156,923 on 28 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

GCC countries have 48,954 confirmed Covid-19 infections, accounting for 31.2 per cent of the total Mena cases.

Saudi Arabia, with 18,811 cases confirmed to date, has the highest number of Covid-19 infections outside regional epicentre Iran.

So far, Saudi Arabia has recorded 2,531 recoveries and 144 deaths.

The UAE has 10,839 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 2,090 recoveries and 82 deaths.

On 27 April, the Department of Economic Development – Abu Dhabi said malls and commercial centres may reopen in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, subject to compliance with updated precautionary measures.  

The management teams of these centres must organise Covid-19 tests for in-store employees and receive confirmation on negative results before being allowed to re-open their stores and commence work. 

Conducting these tests is a primary condition for being granted the permits to resume their commercial activities, ADDED said.

Regional epicentre Iran, which has 91,472 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 70,933 recoveries and 5,806 deaths, plans to reopen mosques in the days ahead.

Reports emerged on 27 April stating that Iran would be divided up into white, yellow and red regions based on the number of infections and deaths.

According to Reuters, President Rouhani added that activities in each region will be restricted accordingly, and an area that has been consistently free of infections or deaths will be labelled white and mosques could be reopened and Friday prayers resumed. 

The president reportedly added that the label given to any region could change if case numbers evolve, but did not specify when the colour-coding programme would come into force.

27 April: Mena has 152,368 Covid-19 cases

More countries phase in commercial activities as Covid-19's economic impact deepens

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 152,368 on 27 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Of the total number, 59.4 per cent of the cases are in Iran, where 90,481 infections have been confirmed to date.

Iran has confirmed 69,657 recoveries and 5,710 deaths.

The GCC region has 45,878 cases, with the majority of these in Saudi Arabia (17,522). 

The kingdom has confirmed 2,357 recoveries and 139 deaths to date.

Outdoor movement restrictions have been eased in Saudi Arabia with the advent of the holy month of Ramadan.

Saudi malls and retail stores reopen with stringent safety measures, such as disinfection every 24 hours, a ban on customers paying with banknotes and no entry for children under the age of 15. 

Mall entertainment venues such as cinemas, play areas and arcades, as well as prayer rooms and changing rooms must remain closed.

Saudi Arabia and China have also entered an SR996.7m ($265m) agreement that includes China supplying nine million coronavirus test kits, 500 specialist technicians and six test laboratories to the kingdom.

Similar reopening measures have also been implemented in the UAE, where 10,349 cases have been confirmed to date, with 1,978 recoveries and 76 deaths.

On 26 April, the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management in Dubai eased movement curbs in the Naif and Al-Ras neighbourhoods, which were placed under total lockdown to curb Covid-19.

Separately, the DIFC Presidential Directive No. 4 of 2020 was announced on 26 April, with companies based in Dubai International Financial Centre permitted to introduce emergency employment-related measures more quickly to deal with the impact of the pandemic.

Outside Iran and the GCC, Egypt is the worst-hit country for Covid-19, with 4,534 confirmed cases to date. 

The country has also reported 1,176 recoveries and 317 deaths. 

On 26 April, the Egyptian government and central bank were revealed to have requested a fresh financial package from the IMF to counter Covid-19's economic impact. 

Discussions with the IMF are at an advanced stage, the Egyptian cabinet reportedly said.

To date, the Mena region has recorded 82,603 recoveries from Covid-19, and 7,037 deaths.

26 April: Almost 150,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Economic activity resumes in parts of the region as case numbers continue to grow

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 147,609 as of 26 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran accounted for about 85 per cent of the Mena region’s Covid-19 cases on 26 March. As of 26 April, this figure is down to 60.5 per cent. 

The regional epicentre of Covid-19, Iran has 89,328 cases of the illness, with 68,193 recoveries and 5,650 deaths.

Outside Iran, Saudi Arabia has the Mena region’s highest number of Covid-19 cases.

As of the morning of 26 April, the kingdom has reported 16,299 cases of Covid-19, with 2,215 recoveries and 136 deaths.

Earlier in the day, the Saudi government lifted its 24-hour curfew in all parts of the country, except Mecca. 

Restrictions on outdoor movement will be in place from 9am to 5pm until 13 May. 

Wholesale and retail trade stores, commercial centres or malls, contracting companies and factories are allowed to resume their activities. Salons, cinemas and recreational centres are to remain closed.

Economic activity has also partially resumed in the UAE, with the Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management announcing the light easing of restrictions on movement in Dubai. 

Outdoor movement curbs have been limited to 10pm to 6am, and movement without prior approval permitted during remaining hours. 

Malls and restaurants allowed to reopen at 25-30 per cent of capacity, but mosques' reopening delayed.

To date, the Mena region has reported 80,434 recoveries from Covid-19, with 6,949 deaths caused by the illness.

23 April: Covid-19 cases in Mena near 134,000-mark

Dubai and Abu Dhabi eye reopening of commercial centres such as malls as Ramadan approaches

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 133,813 as of 23 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

GCC countries account for 25.4 per cent of Mena’s total cases, with the majority (64.3 per cent) located in regional epicentre Iran.

Outside Iran, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region, with 12,772 confirmed infections. 

To date, 1,812 Covid-19 patients have recovered in Saudi Arabia, while 114 have died.

The UAE has the Mena region’s third-highest number of Covid-19 infections, totalling 8,238 on 23 April.

The country has reported 1,546 recoveries and 52 deaths related to Covid-19.

On 23 April, UAE state-news agency Wam reported that the Ministry of Health and Prevention and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority had directed local economic departments to study the possibility of re-opening commercial centres.

These resumption measures must be considered in consultation with the private sector as the holy month of Ramadan approaches.

Protocols issued by Dubai Economy will require malls to operate at 30 per cent capacity after reopening, with people aged above 60 and children aged 3-12 prohibited from visiting. 

Authorities have not announced when malls may reopen.

Similar guidance has been issued by the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, which said malls may reopen between noon and 9pm.

22 April: Mena nears 130,000 Covid-19 cases

Saudi Arabia has confirmed more than 11,600 infections to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 129,502 as of 22 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 31,480 cases of Covid-19, with the highest number of infections detected in Saudi Arabia, where 11,631 cases have been reported.

To date, 1,640 individuals have recovered in the kingdom, with 109 deaths.

The UAE has 7,755 cases of Covid-19, with 1,443 recoveries and 46 deaths.

On 21 April, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) recommended the postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai.

The world expo is likely to be held from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.

In the wider Mena region, 13,220 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded outside epicentre Iran, which has reported 84,802 infections.

Yemen has one case of Covid-19. On 21 April, the International Initiative on Covid-19, comprising multinational companies, sent its first 34-tonne shipment to the country.

The shipment contains 49,000 virus collection kits, 20,000 rapid test kits, five centrifuges and equipment that would enable 85,000 tests, and 24,000 Covid-19 nucleic acid test kits.

21 April: Mena Covid-19 cases exceed 125,000

Saudi Arabia's infections cross 10,000-mark as GCC approaches 30,000 cases

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 125,329 as of 21 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the illness, has 83,505 cases, accounting for 66.6 per cent of the Mena total.

The country has recorded 59,273 recoveries and 5,209 deaths to date.

Meanwhile, the GCC region has almost 30,000 cases, with Saudi Arabia crossing the 10,000-case mark as of 21 April.

The GCC region has 29,076 Covid-19 cases, and Saudi Arabia has 10,484 confirmed infections.

The kingdom has reported 1,490 recoveries and 103 deaths due to Covid-19 to date.

On 20 April, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia said it would extend the suspension of prayers at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.

The wider Mena region, excluding Iran and the GCC, has confirmed 12,748 cases.

To date, 67,918 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region, with 6,316 deaths.

20 April: Regional Covid-19 cases exceed 121,000

Iran accounts for 67.9 per cent of coronavirus infections in the Middle East and North Africa region to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 121,090 as of 20 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Of these, 82,211 cases are in Iran, the regional epicentre of the pandemic’s spread.

The GCC has 26,653 cases of Covid-19, while the remaining Mena countries have 12,226 cases.

Outside Iran, the majority of Covid-19 cases are in Saudi Arabia, which has 9,362 Covid-19 infections, with 1,398 recoveries and 97 deaths.

On 19 April, Qassim Governor Prince Faisal bin Mishaal bin Abdul Aziz inaugurated an initiative allocating SR250m ($66m) in phase one to help families in Buraidah affected by the measures taken to fight the pandemic.

Nazaha, the kingdom's Control & Anti-Corruption Authority, also said on 19 April it had opened a financial and administrative corruption case involving two senior employees at the General Directorate of Health Affairs in the Riyadh region, a hotel owner and six other individuals who are charged with exploitation of the government’s expenditure to contain Covid-19 and providing quarantine areas for repatriated citizens.

The UAE has 6,781 cases with 1,286 recoveries and 41 deaths, while Qatar has 5,448 cases with 518 recoveries and eight deaths.

Mena countries, excluding Iran and the GCC countries, account for 10.1 per cent of the region’s total cases.

Among these markets, Tunisia and Morocco have extended their nationwide lockdowns until 4 and 20 May, respectively.

Earlier this week, Algeria also announced its lockdown had been extended until 23 April.

To date, 65,014 recoveries have been reported in the Mena region, with 6,192 deaths due to Covid-19.

19 April: Iran reopens as regional Covid-19 cases grow

More than 116,958 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the region to date, with 63,514 recoveries so far

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 116,958 as of 19 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, the regional epicentre of Covid-19, has confirmed 80,868 infections to date, with 55,987 recoveries and 5,031 deaths. 

Some businesses started to resume operations in Tehran on 18 April after parts of Iran reopened on 11 April. 

Restaurants, Tehran’s grand bazaar, shrines and mosques remain closed, but government offices have reportedly reopened, with a third of employees working from home.

Case numbers also grew in other parts of the Mena region over the weekend. 

Saudi Arabia reported more than 2,000 new cases between 16 and 19 April, taking its total number of Covid-19 infections to 8,274, with 1,329 recoveries and 92 deaths.

In the UAE, which is the GCC’s second worst-hit country for Covid-19 infections, new testing facilities have been set up for workers in Abu Dhabi and the national sterilisation programme encouraging Dubai residents to stay home has been extended.

The UAE has confirmed 6,302 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 1,188 recoveries and 37 deaths. 

To date, 63,514 Covid-19 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region, with 6,065 deaths reported due to the illness.

16 April: Mena Covid-19 recoveries cross 55,000-mark

The region has 105,447 confirmed cases of the illness, with 5,707 deaths to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 105,447 as of 16 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, has 72.4 per cent of Mena’s confirmed infections, with 76,389 confirmed cases. To date, there are 49,933 recoveries and 4,777 deaths related to Covid-19 in the country.

A study by the Iranian parliament’s research centre warned earlier this week that the country’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be nearly double the officially reported figures, due to undercounting and because not everyone with breathing problems has been tested for the virus, New York Times reports. 

Outside Iran, the Mena region’s worst-hit country for Covid-19 is Saudi Arabia, where a new round of shutdowns and financial stimulus have been launched to contend with the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 5,862 Covid-19 cases to date, with 931 recoveries and 79 deaths.

On 15 April, the kingdom’s Ministry of Interior isolated the Al-Atheer district in Dammam, banning entry and exit from the city and imposing a 24-hour curfew until further notice. 

On the same day, King Salman approved a package of additional stimulus measures, including SR50bn to expedite the payment of the dues of the private sector; a 30 per cent reduction in electricity bills for consumers in the commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors in April and May, with the possibility of extension if needed; and SR47bn in additional funding for healthcare. 

Other initiatives include paying the minimum salaries of Public Transport Authority-registered independent workers in the passenger transport sector, and requiring companies in which the state owns more than 51 per cent of the capital to prioritise the local market and direct their offers and purchases to the benefit of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The Mena region has recorded 5,707 deaths due to Covid-19 to date, bringing the region’s fatality rate to 5.4 per cent as of 16 April. 

Excluding Iran’s figures takes the region’s fatality rate to 3.2 per cent, however.

To date, 56,081 recoveries have been recorded in the Mena region, for a recovery rate of 53.2 per cent. 

Excluding Iran’s infection numbers, the Mena region has 6,148 recoveries out of 29,058 confirmed cases, leading to a recovery rate of 21.1 per cent.

15 April: More than 100,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Study expects Kuwait case growth to recede from mid-May, but GCC infection rates increase

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 101,958 as of 15 April, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 17,523 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, have 9,558 cases.

Within the Gulf, Saudi Arabia is the worst-hit country for Covid-19 infections. A total of 435 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the kingdom on 14 April, bringing the total number to 5,369 cases.

On 14 April, Saudi Arabia also announced 84 new recoveries, taking the total number of recoveries to 889. The death toll rose by eight to 73.

In the UAE, the health ministry announced 412 new cases on 14 April, raising the total tally of cases to 4,933. 

Eighty-one new recoveries were announced, taking the UAE’s total number of recovered Covid-19 patients to 933, with 28 deaths. 

The UAE’s Federal Tax Authority has announced an exceptional one-month extension to the tax period to ease coronavirus-led pressure on businesses. 

Excise tax registrants are required to file two separate tax returns, one each for March and April 2020, and settle the total amount due for both months by 17 May 2020.

Covid-19 cases continue to grow around the world, and it is unclear when the pandemic might recede. 

However, in Kuwait, which has confirmed 1,355 Covid-19 cases to date, with 176 recoveries and three deaths, estimations have emerged about when the growth curve might flatten.

Kuwait Diabetes Institute’s and Kuwait University’s simulation on the spread of Covid-19 in the country anticipates the coronavirus to peak in Kuwait around mid-May before its growth curve descends.

14 April: Covid-19 cases near 98,500-mark in Mena

Case numbers increase outside epicentre Iran as regional governments conduct more health tests

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 98,492 as of 14 April, according to data collated by Worldometers.

The GCC has 16,074 confirmed cases of Covid-19, while countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, have 9,115 cases.

With 73,303 confirmed Covid-19 cases, Iran is the regional epicentre of the new coronavirus and the country's case numbers have grown exponentially since 25 March, when it had about 24,811 cases. 

However, as the coronavirus has spread across the region, Iran’s share in the total number of Mena cases has reduced from 86 per cent on 25 March to 74 per cent as of 14 April.

Middle Eastern governments, led by the GCC, are conducting more intensive health screening operations to identify potential cases of the illness.

To date, Iran has recorded 45,983 recoveries and 4,585 deaths related to Covid-19.

‘Low-risk’ economic activity resumed in Iran on 11 April following orders by President Hassan Rouhani. The same low-risk sectors are expected to open in Tehran on 18 April. 

While health experts have warned that the easing of restrictions could cause a second wave of Covid-19 in the country, the Iranian government says it must resume activity to buoy its sanction-hit economy.

Last week, Iran urged the Washington-based IMF to urgently approve its $5bn loan appeal. Rouhani said “there should be no discrimination” in approving these requests on behalf of IMF member states.

Covid-19 has led to numerous stimulus packages being launched by Middle Eastern governments over the past month.

In Saudi Arabia, the energy sector has contributed about SR500m and Saudi banks have contributed almost SR160m to the health ministry’s relief fund amid Covid-19.

The UAE central bank’s measures to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19 were valued at AED256bn ($69.7bn) on 5 April.

In the wider Mena region, the first batch of irregular workers in Egypt that applied for financial assistance worth £E500 per month amid the coronavirus outbreak started to cash out their benefits on 13 April. 

The Egyptian government has found 1.5 million workers eligible for the aid programme, part of Cairo’s £E100bn stimulus package during Covid-19.

Egypt has 2,190 cases of Covid-19, with 589 recoveries and 164 deaths. It is the worst-hit country in terms of case numbers outside Iran and the GCC. 

To date, 51,301 individuals in the Mena region have recovered from Covid-19, while 5,439 individuals have died of the illness.

13 April: Mena's Covid-19 cases approach 95,000

Labour ministry developments announced in UAE and Saudi Arabia as regional case numbers grow

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 94,988 on 13 April, according to data collated by Worldometers.

The GCC has 14,533 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with Saudi Arabia being the worst-hit Gulf country with 4,463 infections.

Saudi Arabia has also reported 761 recoveries and 59 deaths due to Covid-19.

Taraweeh prayers, the additional nightly prayers offered during Ramadan, might be suspended in mosques in Saudi Arabia this year, local newspaper Al-Riyadh reported citing the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah & Guidance.

Covid-19 threatens job security in Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom’s Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development has amended the labour law to restrict the use of force majeure as a justification for dismissal for six months following the start of announcing the precautionary measures in the kingdom.

Labour ministry activity is also under way in the UAE, which has 4,123 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 680 recoveries and 22 deaths.

On 12 April, a source from the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation said the authority was considering revising partnerships on labour relations with nations refusing to repatriate expat employees that wished to go home. 

Among the curbs being considered are quota impositions on future recruitment from those countries.

Outside of Iran and the GCC countries, 8,769 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Mena region.

The majority of these cases are in Egypt, which has confirmed 2,065 Covid-19 infections to date, with 589 recoveries and 159 deaths as of 13 April.

As of 13 April, 5,280 deaths have been caused due to Covid-19 in the Mena region.

12 April: Mena records 91,682 Covid-19 cases

War-torn Yemen reports first case as case numbers grow outside epicentre Iran

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 91,682 on 12 April, according to data collated by Worldometers.

In the GCC, confirmed Covid-19 infection numbers grew by 3,392 cases over the weekend to reach 13,290 on 12 April from 9,898 on 9 April. 

Saudi Arabia has 4,033 confirmed cases, with 720 recoveries and 52 deaths related to Covid-19.

A spokesperson from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior said on 11 April that King Salman had ordered the extension of curfews across Saudi Arabia “until further notice”. The 21-day curfew measure started on 23 March. 

In the UAE, 3,736 Covid-19 cases have been detected to date, with 588 recoveries and 20 deaths.

On 9 April, it was reported that Dubai’s Department of Finance has ordered a 50 per cent cut in capital spending and asked to delay new government construction projects to reduce the financial impact of Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Police distributed face masks and personal protective supplies among residents of a number of areas in Abu Dhabi, including Musaffah, Mafraq, Shawamekh and Al-Ain City, and to thousands of construction workers on 10 April.

The Covid-19 pandemic is also impacting wider Middle Eastern economies.

The International Monetary Fund said on 11 April it had approved a $745m emergency loan to Tunisia to help the country mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

War-torn Yemen reported its first Covid-19 case on 10 April. Minister of Health Nasser Baoum reportedly said the patient is a 73-year-old Yemeni national who worked at the port in Al-Sheher.

Provincial governor Farag al-Bouhsni declared a partial curfew and placed all workers at Al-Sheher port under a 14-day quarantine, and the adjacent province of Al-Mahra sealed off its entry points. 

Yemen’s Ministry of Religious Endowment in Aden said mosques would be closed to mass prayers as well as Quran lessons, UAE newspaper The National reported.

With 70,029 cases, 41,947 recoveries and 4,357 deaths, Iran is the worst-hit Mena country for Covid-19 cases.

To date, 5,107 deaths due to Covid-19 have been reported in the Mena region. 

9 April: More than 81,000 Covid-19 cases in Mena

Bahrain pledges private sector salaries as GCC cases approach 10,000 mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region reached 81,695 on 9 April, according to Johns Hopkins University’s data. 

In the GCC, confirmed Covid-19 infection numbers stand at 9,898, with the majority of the cases in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar. 

Saudi Arabia has 2,932 confirmed cases, with 631 recoveries and 41 deaths. 

In the UAE, 300 new cases were reported on 8 April, taking the national tally to 2,659. 

At least 239 individuals have recovered from Covid-19 in the UAE, and 12 have died of the illness. 

Fellow GCC nation Bahrain has 823 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 477 recoveries and five deaths. 

The country has doubled down on providing socioeconomic benefits as the pandemic sweeps through the Mena region. 

On 8 April, Bahrain announced plans to pay BD215m ($569.3m) in April-June wages for 100,000 citizens employed in the private sector, waive rents and allowances from tenants of municipal properties, and double social security benefits for citizens.

The Covid-19 pandemic is severely impacting wider Middle Eastern economies.

Lebanon requires net external financing of $10-$15bn over the next five years to help it through its financial crisis as its expects an economic loss of $83.2bn, according to a draft government plan seen by Reuters. 

The crisis plan also includes the restructuring of the central bank and commercial banks to include “a transitory exceptional contribution from large depositors”. 

With 64,586 cases, 29,812 recoveries and 3,993 deaths, Iran is the worst-hit Mena country for Covid-19 cases.

To date, the region has recorded 4,582 deaths due to the coronavirus.

8 April: Number of Covid-19 cases keeps growing

Saudi Arabia could eventually have up to 200,000 cases if social distancing measures are not complied with, health minister warns

The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region has 78,512 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of 8 April, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

Saudi Arabia remains the GCC’s worst-hit country for Covid-19 cases, with 2,795 infections, 615 recoveries and 41 deaths reported to date. 

Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said the eventual number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia could be as low as 10,000 or as high as 200,000 depending on compliance with curfews and social distancing.

The kingdom’s Interior Ministry has brought forward closure plans for previously unaffected parts of the country.

This means effectively all of Saudi Arabia’s residents are restricted from outdoor movement, except to leave their homes only for medical or food supplies locally between 6am and 3pm. 

In Bahrain, which has 811 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 458 recoveries and five deaths, closures have been extended until at least 23 April. 

The country’s Supreme Council of Health said the closure of movie theatres, gyms, swimming pools, shisha cafés, salons and non-essential medical services will be effective for the period 9-23 April. 

Restaurants may only conduct deliveries, and public gatherings are to remain limited to five individuals or fewer during the period. All citizens and residents are required to wear face masks in public.

7 April: Mena Covid-19 cases reach 75,185

Governments clamp down on movement as case numbers continue daily growth

More than 75,185 cases of Covid-19 have been registered in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region as of 7 April. 

About 4,250 deaths have been reported due to Covid-19 in the region. 

Regional governments continue to clamp down on outdoor movement as part of measures to contain Covid-19. 

On 6 April, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior applied a 24-hour ∂aily curfew to the cities of Riyadh, Tabuk, Dammam, Dhahran and Hofuf, and the provinces of Jeddah, Taif, Qatif and Khobar.

As measures to further cushion the blow from Covid-19 on Saudi Arabia’s economy, the Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development said Saudi private sector employers whose businesses are affected by Covid-19 are permitted to cut their employees’ wages and working hours. 

Employers that have benefited from state subsidies, such as the SR9bn ($2.4bn) fund created last week to compensate Saudi workers for the effects of Covid-19, may not terminate employment contracts, but employees retain this right.

Saudi Arabia has 2,605 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 551 recoveries and 38 deaths.

In neighbouring Kuwait, which has 665 confirmed Covid-19 cases, the partial daily curfew on outdoor movement has been extended by two hours, and a lockdown has been imposed on the Mahboula and Jleeb al-Shuyoukh areas, which reports say are densely populated by low-wage expats. 

Employers that compel their Mahboula-based workers to leave their homes will face legal action, the Interior Ministry said on 6 April, adding that police forces are monitoring the area.

With 8,265 confirmed Covid-19 infections, the GCC accounts for about 11 per cent of Mena’s total 75,185 cases. 

Regional epicentre Iran has 60,500 cases of Covid-19, with 24,236 recoveries and 3,739 deaths to date. 

6 April: Covid-19 cases cross 71,500 in Mena

Iran to resume "low-risk" activities even as infection numbers continue to grow

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 71,543 as of 6 April 2020, according to data by Johns Hopkins University's live coronavirus infection tracker.

Regionally, more than 4,066 deaths have been reported due to Covid-19.

Iran’s number of coronavirus cases grew to 58,226, with the country reporting a total of 22,011 recoveries and 3,603 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 5 April that Iran would resume “low-risk” economic activity from 11 April, with Tehran resuming these activities from 18 April. 

Two-thirds of all Iranian government employees will work out of the office from 11 April, Rouhani reportedly said, adding that “high-risk” areas such as schools, universities and social venues will remain closed until 18 April.

The GCC region has 7,359 Covid-19 cases, including Saudi Arabia’s 2,402 and the UAE’s 1,799 confirmed infections to date. 

In Saudi Arabia, 488 individuals have recovered from Covid-19, while the number stands at 144 in the UAE. 

Thirty-four deaths have been reported due to Covid-19 in Saudi Arabia and 10 in the UAE.

In the wider Middle East, Jordan has 345 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 110 recoveries and five deaths.

Border closures in Jordan have been extended until after Ramadan, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army plans to use drones to monitor compliance with the country’s curfew rules.

Egypt, which has 1,173 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 247 recoveries and 78 deaths, has revised its growth targets for the fiscal year ending June.

Planning Minister Hala al-Saeed said annual growth targets have been revised from 5.6 per cent to 4.2 per cent.

5 April: 67,893 cases confirmed in Mena

GCC governments clamp down on outdoor movement as case numbers mount

Social distancing regulations have been tightened across the GCC as the number of Covid-19 cases reached 67,893 in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region on 4 April 2020.

Iran has 55,743 positive cases of the illness, with 19,736 recoveries and 3,452 deaths.

Saudi Arabia, which has 2,370 cases of Covid-19, issued a 24-hour curfew on seven neighbourhoods within Jeddah over the weekend. 

On 3 April, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud issued a royal decree ordering the allocation of SR9bn ($2.4bn) to compensate citizens working in facilities affected by repercussions of the pandemic.

The royal decree exempts Saudis working in the affected private sector facilities from Articles 8, 10 and 14 of the Unemployment Insurance (Sanad) scheme.

Similar government measures have been implemented in the UAE, with the Dubai emirate now in near-lockdown mode as all-day outdoor movement restrictions are imposed to curb Covid-19. 

On 4 April, Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management extended the federal sterilisation programme to 24 hours a day for two weeks, subject to renewal. 

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has also suspended Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram services.

Oman and Kuwait announced their first deaths due to Covid-19 over the weekend. 

The total number of Covid-19 related deaths in the Mena region now exceeds 3,860. 

2 April 2020: Covid-19 cases cross 56,000 in Mena

Regional governments ramp up economic protection measures as coronavirus continues to spread

The total number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) stood at 56,265 on 1 April 2020, prompting renewed government measures to boost economic stability in the region.

Case numbers continue to grow in Iran, the Covid-19 pandemic’s epicentre in Mena, which has at least 3,300 confirmed coronavirus-linked deaths so far.

As of 1 April, more than 47,592 Covid-19 infections were confirmed in the country, with 15,473 recoveries and 3,306 deaths. 

Covid-19 cases in the Mena region [source: MEED].

The UAE announced 150 new cases of Covid-19 on 1 April, bringing its total number of infections to 814, with 61 recoveries and eight deaths.

On the same day, Dubai Economy launched a daily price tracker for staple food and essential items to curb price gouging in the emirate. 

Dubai's Knowledge & Human Development Authority and the Sharjah Private Education Authority also ordered schools to make fee refunds to parents as part of measures to mitigate the financial impact of coronavirus-led business closures. 

In Saudi Arabia, where 1,720 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed to date, the Ministry of Human Resources & Social Development allocated SR17bn ($4.5bn) to deal with the economic and employment fall-out from Covid-19.

Its measures include fee exemptions for expat workers whose residency permits (iqama) expire before 30 June, and disallowing forced unpaid leave without employees’ consent.

Ahmad bin Suleiman Al-Rajihi, minister of human resources and social development and chairman of the General Authority of Awqaf, inaugurated a SR500m community fund to contend with Covid-19’s effects.

The fund includes contributions of SR100m from the awqaf authority and SR50m from the labour ministry. 

Saudi Electricity Company contributed SR30m, and the company’s contractors, suppliers and other partners added SR24.65m to support the Health Endowment Fund.

To date, 264 patients of Covid-19 have recovered in Saudi Arabia, with 16 fatalities recorded in the country.

1 April: Region's Covid-19 cases keep growing

Saudi Arabia urges patience with clarity around Hajj pilgrimage as Dubai pledges to back Emirates

Regional governments are rolling out a new round of economic relief packages as the number of Covid-19 in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) reached 52,556 on 31 March 2020. 

Case numbers are continuing their upward movement even outside Iran, the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in Mena, which has more than 44,605 confirmed cases, making up about 85 per cent of the regional total. 

In Saudi Arabia, where 1,563 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed to date, Mecca governor Prince Khalid al-Faisal has launched the Barran bi Makkah campaign to support families and small businesses affected by Covid-19 containment measures in the holy city. 

Meanwhile, Hajj and Umrah minister Muhammad Salih bin Taher Banten has urged pilgrims and foreign governments to wait for more clarity on the Hajj pilgrimage that is due to take place in late-July. 

Major announcements also emerged from the UAE and Kuwait in the past 24 hours. 

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, said on 31 March that government support would be provided to Emirates Airlines in the form of an equity injection drive. 

The unprecedented capital injection from Dubai, which owns Emirates through its sovereign wealth fund Investment Corporation of Dubai, reiterates the airline's commercial and social significance to the local economy.

Plans were also in motion to announce a new set of financial support packages in Kuwait on 31 March. 

Earlier today, Kuwait announced soft long-term loans from local banks and loan repayment delays for companies affected by the Covid-19 crisis. 

The country’s cabinet has also directed government agencies to pay private sector companies as soon as possible, and waived selected payment obligations for private firms.

31 March: New measures unveiled to curb Covid-19 in Mena

Austerity drive kicks off in Oman as UAE launches new labour law rules

Governments have launched a new round of economic relief packages, austerity measures and state-backed benefits as the number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region grows to 48,732 as of 31 March 2020.

Saudi Arabia, which announced 154 new coronavirus cases on 30 March, will offer free Covid-19 treatment to citizens and residents following an order issued by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. 

The kingdom has 1,453 confirmed cases of Covid-19 to date, with 115 recoveries and eight deaths. 

Government efforts were also stepped up in the UAE, where the steering committee behind Expo 2020 Dubai recommended that the event is delayed by up to a year as the world grapples with the Covid-19 outbreak. 

The UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation (Mohre) has announced a national programme to support the private sector labour market while social distancing regulations are in force. 

The cabinet also approved new measures to encourage people to stay at home and ease administrative procedures for businesses and individuals in the UAE, which announced 41 new Covid-19 cases on 30 March. 

Distance learning has been extended for the entirety of the 2019-20 academic year in the UAE, which has 611 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, with 61 recoveries and five deaths. 

In Oman, the government has reiterated its austerity drive, with government companies told to rationalise their operational and investment spending. The Royal Order stipulates that all government companies cut their approved expenditures for 2020 by 10 per cent, and cease the execution of new projects or capital expenditures for the year.

Government entities have also been told to cease spending on all external training sessions, workshops and conferences and exhibitions, and to reduce the funds allocated for official tasks by not less than 50 per cent. Revised budgets are to be submitted to Oman’s Ministry of Finance by the end of April. 

Oman has 179 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 29 recoveries.

In the wider Middle East, Egypt has resumed sterilisation works at key tourism sites in the country, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has ordered that doctors’ salaries are increased.

The number of cases in the rest of the Mena region grew from 3,172 on 30 March to 3,520 on 31 March.

30 March: Mena Covid-19 cases spur tighter curbs

Sweeping containment curbs have been extended across the region as the number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) grew to 44,905 as of 30 March 2020. 

Globally, 723,700 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed to date, with 152,032 recoveries and 34,018 deaths.

The Saudi Arabian Health Ministry’s spokesperson, Mohammed al-Abd al-Aali, announced on 29 March that 96 new Covid-19 cases had been detected in the country, taking the kingdom’s tally of Covid-19 infections to 1,299, with 66 recoveries. 

Riyadh clamped down on travel bans within the kingdom as the number of Covid-19 related deaths grew by four on 29 March. 

The Interior Ministry has extended the suspension of international and internal flights as well as work in the private and public sectors until further notice. Jeddah has been sealed off and its curfew hours have been extended to start at 3pm local time.

In Iran, 2,901 new cases were announced on 29 March, raising the national tally to 38,309. Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to Iran's health minister, tweeted that 123 new deaths had been recorded as well. 

Iran, the Middle East worst-hit country for Covid-19 cases, accounts for 85.3 per cent of the Mena region’s total cases. The GCC has 3,424 Covid-19 cases, making up 7.6 per cent of the regional total. 

Covid-19 cases in the Mena region [source: MEED].

The number of cases in the rest of the Mena region grew from 2,882 on 29 March to 3,172 on 30 March.

 

29 March: Closures extended to curb Covid-19 in Mena

The new coronavirus that emerged in China last December has led to 41,414 Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region as of 29 March 2020.

More than $5tn has been committed by the G20 to support the global economy as part of efforts to contend with Covid-19’s impact on daily life and businesses. 

An extraordinary virtual summit of the G20, which was chaired by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, also ended with the group allocating a budget for research into slowing down the spread of the new coronavirus causing the Covid-19 illness.

More than 1,200 people have been identified as Covid-19 patients in the kingdom, where four deaths have been recorded so far. 

On 29 March, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said it would indefinitely extend its suspension of international and internal flights as well as work at private and public sectors to contain the spread of the new virus. 

Closures in the kingdom, which include domestic flights, trains, buses and taxis, follow the imposition of travel restrictions between Saudi Arabia’s 13 regions. 

Similar closure extensions were announced in the UAE over the weekend, with the National Disinfection Programme – which restricts people and transport movement between 8pm and 6am – extended till 4 April. 

Additionally, the Dubai Free Zones Council said on 28 March it had launched an economic stimulus package to cut business costs and sustain the financial liquidity of companies operating within the free zones.

The UAE announced 63 new Covid-19 cases on 28 March, taking its total number of patients to 468.  

29 March: UAE contractors given more time and cashflow boost

The UAE cabinet has approved another round of measures to support the economy as it deals with the impact of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.  

The measures include improved payment terms for contractors working on government contracts, as well as exempting companies from penalties that arise from delays caused by the coronavirus crisis.

For payments, the cabinet directed federal ministries and bodies to pay contractors and supplies within 15 days, while for contract delays, suppliers affected by the virus are exempted from fines for delays on federal government contracts for a renewable period of three months.

The cabinet also directed that small and medium suppliers will be awarded 90 per cent of federal government purchases.

The measures are the latest to be introduced by the cabinet. On 22 March, it approved a AED16bn ($4.4bn) economic stimulus package that includes measures to accelerate major infrastructure projects across the federation.

The measures include a renewable six-month suspension of work permit fees and reduction of labour and other charges. The government said the steps would cut the cost of doing business, support small businesses and accelerate major infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure projects are a key part of the UAE’s economy. According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, there are 301 individual projects in the country with a contract value of more than $100m that are at the execution stage. The total value of those projects is $93.6bn.

The stimulus package was approved during a virtual meeting chaired by UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. It is the latest economic package to be announced in the UAE to help mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 14 March, the UAE Central Bank launched AED100bn of credit and capital along with a series of other financial measures to support the economy.

The purpose of the plan is to provide temporary exemption from principal payments and interest on existing loans to all private sector companies and individuals affected by the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Other stimulus packages and financial support measures have been launched by the individual emirates, local banks and private companies.

26 March: UAE hospitals get wireless authorisations

The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has extended the validity of all wireless authorisations of hospitals and medical centres across the country regardless of the expiry date of the authorisation.

The decision is part of the TRA’s efforts “to support the precautionary measures taken by the UAE health sector in the current circumstance”.

In the same statement, TRA announced that it has provided a package of backup radio frequencies to support the sector's wireless communication facilty.

This would allow the frequencies to be allocated immediately upon request without the need to pre-pay the fees required to complete the transaction.

TRA added that the agency’s spectrum monitoring system works around the clock to limit any harmful wireless interference that impedes the work of vital services.

“Hospitals and medical centres will be given priority in the event of jamming or interference affecting their devices or causing delay or disruption of their work,” the TRA said

Covid-19 pandemic latest in UAE (as of 25 March)
Total confirmed cases: 248
Recoveries: 45
Deaths: 2
Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19
18 March: Visa issuance temporarily suspended
22 March: Passenger flights grounded for two weeks from 25 March
22 March: Interior Ministry urges people to stay at home
21-23 March: Malls, food markets and restaurants closed
24 March: Reports say Skype for Business and Google Hangouts legalised to help people work remotely
24 March: Dubai International airport says passenger flights to and from the UAE – including inbound, outbound and transit – will now be suspended from 11:59pm on 24 March instead of 26 March, as was previously planned
24 March: Dubai Chamber urges private sector to implement remote working, and Dubai Crown Prince invites volunteers to support city-wide efforts during Covid-19
Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis
12 March: Dubai announces AED1.5bn stimulus package
14 March: Central Bank pledges AED100bn to support economy
16 March: Abu Dhabi introduces AED5bn stimulus package
17 March: Aldar announces financial support initiatives
17 March: Dubai Holding and Meraas announce economic relief
22 March: UAE cabinet approves additional AED16bn to support infrastructure projects
22 March: Dubai banks offer financial relief measures

 

25 March 2020: Middle East Covid-19 numbers grow

Middle East governments are enforcing stay-at-home orders for citizens and residents as the number of Covid-19 cases grows in the region. 

The UAE announced 45 new cases on 23 March, taking its total number of confirmed Covid-19 patients to 198. Of this number, 41 individuals have recovered from the illness. Dubai and Sharjah Police patrols were seen on 23 March asking people to stay at home and limit the spread of the pandemic.

The UAE is suspending all passenger flights for two weeks from 25 March as part of its Covid-19 containment measures.

Meanwhile, curfews have been implemented in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which have 562 and 189 cases respectively.

Saudi Arabia’s three-week curfew, imposed by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, started on 23 March and will last from 7pm to 6am every day.

Kuwait’s daily 11-hour curfew started on 22 March, and violators will be jailed for up to three years and fined KD10,000 ($32,000) in line with new laws created in the country.

Oman announced 11 new coronavirus cases on 23 March, taking its total number of cases to 66, while Bahrain has 183 positive cases of Covid-19.

Case numbers are also growing outside the GCC. Jordan reported 15 new coronavirus cases on 23 March, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 127.

In Egypt, where 39 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed on 23 March, army official Maj Gen Khaled Shaltut reportedly passed away after contracting the new coronavirus. 

Egypt has 366 cases of Covid-19 and 19 deaths, and in Lebanon, the total number of Covid-19 cases has reached 256. 

Syria announced its first Covid-19 case earlier this week, and Iraq’s outbreak has led to 266 cases. 

Iran, the epicentre of the virus in the Middle East, has 23,049 cases and at least 1,812 deaths. 

The country has faced criticism for not imposing stricter quarantine measures during the outbreak’s earlier stages to contain its spread.

The financial strain of the virus has also caused Iran to approach the IMF for a $5bn emergency loan for the first time since 1962. 

It is also suffering due to the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.

24 March 2020: Covid-19 could jeopardise $91bn of project spending

There is $91bn of project spending forecast for the Middle East and North Africa region during the second quarter of this year that could be jeopardised by the disruption caused by the new coronavirus (Covid-19) global pandemic.

According to regional projects tracker MEED Projects, there is $91bn of cash expected to be spent on projects across all sectors in the region during the second quarter. The bulk of this spending is from the GCC, where there is $62bn forecast to be spent on projects.

The largest single country for upcoming project spending in the second quarter is the UAE with $21bn, followed closely by Saudi Arabia, which is expected to spend $20bn.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are the region’s two largest projects markets based on the total value of projects at the execution stage. There are $181bn of projects under execution in Saudi Arabia, compared with $137bn in the UAE.

Although projects across the region have not yet been severely affected by the spread of the virus, the impact is starting to be felt with contractors reporting delays in the delivery of items from overseas – in particular from China – and growing difficulties with staff and labour.

“For now, work on our sites is proceeding, but work will inevitably slow," says a regional contractor. "The two main concerns are the supply chain failing to deliver on time and people being unable to work."

While progress on projects will be challenged by measures to control and contain the spread of the coronavirus, there is a commitment from governments to continue with project work.

The clearest sign of the government’s approach came on 22 March when the UAE cabinet approved a $4.4bn economic stimulus package that includes measures such as a renewable six-month suspension of work permit fees, and reduction of labour and other charges, that aim to accelerate major infrastructure projects across the federation.

The feedback from the market so far is mixed. Some contractors say there appears to be a willingness from government clients to proceed with projects.

“Tendering is still ongoing,” says the estimating manager of a regional contractor. “It seems like governments want to demonstrate that, although they are working from home, they still need to deliver projects.”

While tendering looks to proceed as planned, there are concerns about payments.

“Payments are slow at the best of times and I expect it will get worse," says a Dubai-based project management consultant. "People are working from home and payments often need multiple signatures before they are released, and that process will slow down if people are working from home."

Payments will become even more strained if disruption caused by the coronavirus means that work is not completed and certified. With supply chain and manpower challenges already emerging, a percentage of the $93bn of spending planned for the second quarter will inevitably be delayed. As the virus spreads and its impact grows, that percentage will increase.

23 March 2020: A snapshot of the spread of Covid-19 in the region

17 March 2020: GCC ramps up Covid-19 response

Efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, are intensifying across the GCC as regional governments implement new closures and activate remote working in the public sector. 

The GCC has about 1,043 cases of Covid-19, the majority of which are linked to direct or indirect travel to Iran, the epicentre of the virus in the Middle East, which has more than 15,000 confirmed cases of the illness. 

Iran has 14,991 cases of the new coronavirus, making it the world’s third worst-hit country after China (81,050 cases) and Italy (27,980 cases).

Saudi Arabia

Fifteen new cases of Covid-19 infections were reported by Saudi Arabia on 16 March, taking the country’s total number of coronavirus patients to 133. Six of Saudi Arabia’s 133 Covid-19 patients have recovered and the remaining are in isolation.  

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority on 16 March cut the Repo rate by 75 basis points from 1.75 per cent to 1.00 per cent and the Reverse Repo rate by 75 basis points from 1.25 per cent to 0.50 per cent with the aim of “preserving monetary stability”. 

Saudi Arabia’s public sector employees, except those working in health, security and military services, were ordered on 15 March to stay at home for 16 days as part of measures to contain Covid-19. 

Companies have been urged to quarantine expat workers for 14 days following their return to Saudi Arabia from vacation.

The kingdom has already suspended international passenger flights, cancelled the Umrah pilgrimage and locked down the Qatif province.

On 15 March, Riyadh also announced the closure of shopping centres, malls, restaurants, coffee shops and public parks. Only supermarkets and pharmacies are permitted to operate. 

Kuwait

Similar measures have been implemented in Kuwait, where the announcement of 11 new Covid-19 cases on 16 March brought the national total to 123, with 114 active cases and nine recoveries. 

Kuwait has declared a public holiday from 12-26 March to contain the spread of Covid-19, and has also closed down commercial establishments such as shopping malls, commercial complexes, theme parks and salons. 

Congregational prayers have been temporarily suspended by the Kuwait Ministry of Awqaf & Islamic Affairs, and non-cargo flights have also been grounded in the country. 

Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, Anas al-Saleh, said on 16 March that the government was open to expanding its precautionary measures if they are deemed necessary to contain Covid-19’s spread. 

He said: “The option to impose countrywide curfew or extradite some lawless expatriate workers remains to be a final resort in case the health instructions are not heeded. 

“The government will never allow the health system of the country to collapse due to non-abidance by the instructions of the Ministry of Health. If the citizens and expatriates are careless or fail to take seriously these instructions, the state will definitely have different responses.”

Bahrain

Travel suspensions were extended in Bahrain on 15 March, one day before the first Covid-19 fatality was announced by the kingdom. 

The Civil Aviation Affairs authority announced a reduction in the number of incoming flights to Bahrain until further notice, effective 3am on Wednesday, 18 March 2020. 

The Nationality, Passport & Residence Affairs (NPRA) department at Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior will also start to suspend on-arrival visas across the kingdom’s entry points until further notice at the same time.

On-arrival visas will be available for diplomatic passport holders and e-visas will be available for the public, NPRA said.

A 65-year-old Bahraini woman passed away due to Covid-19, Bahrain said on 16 March. 

State-run Bahrain News Agency announced that the woman “had returned from Iran via an indirect flight last month and had not entered the general population”. 

To date, 228 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Bahrain, of which 147 are active cases.

Oman

Border closures have been announced in Oman, which as of 16 March had the lowest number of Covid-19 cases in the Gulf. 

Oman’s Ministry of Health announced two new Covid-19 cases on 16 March, which it said were linked to travel abroad.

Twenty-two of the sultanate’s 24 cases are linked to travel, Oman said. 

Oman is barring entry to non-GCC residents in response to the new coronavirus. The sultanate’s Supreme Committee decided that arrivals to the country from 17 March, including citizens, would be placed under quarantine upon entry. 

The Supreme Committee has also closed all parks and public play areas, suspended Friday prayers and banned all social gatherings, including weddings and funeral ceremonies.

Schools and universities, as well as sports activities, have been suspended for a month, and cruise liners have been stopped from entering Omani ports.

UAE

Measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 were expanded in the UAE on 16 March as further venue closures were announced. 

Dubai Financial Market has temporarily closed its trading floor and customer affairs counters until further notice in response to Covid-19. 

However, the Dubai bourse’s chief operating officer and head of operations, Hassan al-Serkal, said the closure of the floor would not affect trading activity. 

“Investors can carry on with their activities through DFM’s online and smart platforms as well as licensed brokerage firms.

“As long as this temporary closure is implemented, only employees of brokerage firms with offices located at the trading floor can access the premises.”

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange also closed its trading floor on 15 March. 

The UAE has 98 confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 26 have recovered. Twelve of the 98 cases were announced on 16 March. 

On the same day, the UAE’s National Emergency Crisis & Disaster Management Authority and the General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments temporarily suspended prayers in all places of worship for four weeks.


 Abu Dhabi, 16 March, 2020 (WAM):  During a video conference, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan learned about the ongoing national efforts to curb the proliferation of Covid-19


Middle East update

Social distancing is being encouraged as Middle East governments seek to limit the spread of Covid-19. 

Lebanon declared a medical state of emergency on 15 March, shutting down its airport and most public institutions and private companies. 

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said Lebanon’s borders, ports and airport would be closed on 18-29 March and Lebanese people were obliged to remain at home except for matters of "extreme necessity”.

Ninety-nine cases and three fatalities have been attributed to Covid-19 in Lebanon. 

Tunisia will suspend international flights and close its land border to contain the outbreak of coronavirus, Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said on 16 March. 

Egypt, which has reported 150 cases and three deaths, will halt flights to its airports from 19-31 March and implement a shutdown that will include the sterilisation of hotels and tourism facilities, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said. 

Iraq announced a week-long curfew on 15 March, and the shutdown will take effect later today. It includes the suspension of all flights from Baghdad International airport as Iraq seeks to contain Covid-19, which has infected 124 and claimed nine lives in the country. 

Qatar reported 38 new coronavirus cases on 16 March, taking the total number of infections to 439, according to the Andalou Agency.

12 March 2020: Travel bans intensify amid pandemic

Travel restrictions have intensified in the Middle East after the World Health Organisation said Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, could be characterised as a pandemic.

Saudi Arabia has suspended travel for citizens and expatriate residents to countries with cases of Covid-19.

Included in Saudi Arabia’s latest round of restrictions are flights to EU countries, Switzerland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia.

Travellers, including individuals that visited these countries in the fortnight prior to their arrival, are also banned from entering Saudi Arabia.

Land travel with Jordan has been suspended for passengers, but commercial and freight traffic is permitted. Saudi Arabia will also allow humanitarian and other exceptional cases to enter from Jordan.

In a statement carried by government-held Saudi Press Agency on 12 March, a source from the kingdom’s Ministry of Interior said Saudi citizens and nationals of the countries covered by the ban, who have valid residency in the kingdom, have 72 hours to return to Saudi Arabia before the travel suspension decision becomes effective.

News of Saudi Arabia’s travel ban emerged after the kingdom confirmed 24 new Covid-19 cases, including 21 Egyptians who have been quarantined in Mecca.

Cinemas have also been temporarily closed in Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom’s Health Ministry has called on people to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people.

Saudi Arabia now has 45 cases of Covid-19, while the UAE has 74 cases.

The UAE’s Central Bank has instructed employees to work remotely in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The Abu Dhabi government has also activated its remote work system for some of its employees, including senior citizens, working mothers, and staff with chronic illnesses and respiratory conditions.

Local media reports that the academic year in the UAE would be halted until June in favour of an e-learning system were also refuted by the Ministry of Education.  

Kuwait closures

Among the most wide-ranging closures have been implemented in Kuwait, which has 70 cases of Covid-19.

Boursa Kuwait will not operate on 12 March, and non-vital Kuwaiti government departments will be closed between 12 and 29 March.

Kuwait Banking Association (KBA) said banks in the country would also close their doors on 12-29 March.

KBA’s board chairman Adel al-Majed said every bank would be allowed to operate only one branch in each of Kuwait’s six governorates.

Kuwait’s ministries of interior and information have filed lawsuits against people spreading rumours about Covid-19, it emerged on 11 March.

Kuwait has also banned people from visiting restaurants and cafés, including those in malls, and temporarily halted traditional private and public gatherings.

Fellow GCC state Bahrain recorded 77 new cases on 11 March among 165 citizens repatriated from Iran, the epicentre of Covid-19 in the Middle East.

The new diagnoses take Bahrain’s tally of Covid-19 cases to 188, according to Andalou Agency.

Qatar recorded 238 new Covid-19 cases on 11 March, with local media reporting these were detected “among expatriates from contacts of the three cases who were declared infected with the virus [last week] and reside in same residential complex”.

Regional spread grows

Oman, which has 18 cases of the new coronavirus, said its national Oman Air would temporarily suspend all flights to Saudi Arabia until further notice.

Iran has 9,000 cases of Covid-19 and has recorded 354 deaths. The country’s Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri has tested positive for Covid-19.

Other government representatives in Iran who have reportedly contracted the virus include Minister of Cultural Heritage Ali Asghar Mounesan and President of National Olympic Committee Reza Salehi Amiri.

More than 125,865 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded globally, of which about 9,951 are in the Middle East.

China, the epicentre of the virus, has 80,932 cases, while Italy, the hub of the virus in Europe, has 12,462 cases.

US President Donald Trump announced restrictions on travel from 26 European countries for the next 30 days.

However, the US' restrictions will not apply to the UK, where 460 cases of the virus have been confirmed, with patients including Health Minister Nadine Dorries. 


More on the impact of coronavirus

 

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