Latest on the region's Covid-19 recovery

29 July 2020
29 July: Covid-19 cases approach 1.2 million in Mena

GCC countries make up 52.4 per cent of all regional cases while Iran comprises 25 per cent

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,189,872 on 29 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC collectively account for 52.4 per cent of all regional infections.

With 270,831 cases confirmed to date, Saudi Arabia is the Gulf's worst-hit country for Covid-19.

The kingdom has reported 225,624 recoveries and 2,789 deaths so far.

On 28 July, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Health said it would assign a health leader for every 50 pilgrims of this year's scaled back Hajj.

The leader will be responsible for ensuring that their crew is following the precautionary and preventive health measures imposed by the authority, including social distancing and the prescribed ways of movement within sacred spaces.

The kingdom has increased its capacity of intensive care unit (ICU) beds by 41 per cent in Riyadh.

The growth comes as part of a health ministry programme to raise nation-wide ICU bed capacity by 3,280 in 90 days.

Outside the GCC, countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, comprise 22.7 per cent of all confirmed infections.

With 296,273 cases, Iran alone accounts for 24.9 per cent of the 1.18 million infections in the Mena region.

Covid-19 in the Mena region:

(29 July 2020)

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 270,831
  • Recoveries: 225,624
  • Deaths: 2,789

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 28 July: Health Ministry to assign a health leader for every 50 pilgrims of this year's scaled back Hajj. 
  • 21 July: Saudi Arabia's Minister of Hajj & Umrah, Muhammad Saleh Benten, says "unprecedented" arrangements have been made for this year's scaled-back pilgrimage.
  • 17 July: Ministry of Health says it is conducting more than 65,000 tests every day. 
  • 13 July: Individuals entering Mina, Muzdalifah or Arafat without a permit between 19 July and 2 August, including during Hajj, will be fined SR10,000, with the amount to double if the violation is repeated. 
  • 10 July: Riyadh Airports Company launches artificial intelligence- and machine learning-powered project to ensure social distancing is followed at King Khalid International airport.
  • 6 July: Saudi Arabia issues guidelines for Hajj 2020, including the prohibition of all entry into Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat without permits from 19 July. Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited as well, and the mosque’s carpets are to be removed to allow pilgrims to use their personal prayer rugs instead. Registrations have also been opened for expat residents in the kingdom to register as pilgrims, the majority of which (70 per cent) will be non-Saudis this year.
  • 30 June: Ministry of Health calls for caution amid suggestions that Covid-19 pandemic might be reversing during the hot summer weather, urging residents to abide by precautionary measures to curb the spread.
  • 27 June: Health ministry issues precautions to allow the gradual return of workers to offices.

 Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 28 July: ICU bed capacity increased by 41 per cent in Riyadh.
  • 27 July: Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) completes automatic extension of the exit and re-entry visas of expatriates currently outside the kingdom. The extension is valid for three months and was completed at no cost to the visa holder. The kingdom's General Authority of Civil Aviation said last week it had yet to set a date for the resumption of international flights.
  • 23 July: Saudi citizens, their immediate family members and their domestic staff can enter the kingdom by land from Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE without obtaining prior authorisation, marking the reopening of land borders four months after they were closed to curb the spread of Covid-19. 
  • 14 July: Corporate Sustainability Programme launched by the Ministry of Finance to support the deferment of loan installments for the private sector. The initiative includes deferring loan installments due in 2020 for the health and education sectors. Worth SR670m, this deferment covers more than 192 establishments across sectors such as education, health and industry. The initiative also aims to support projects in the education, health and real estate development sectors by accelerating approvals and disbursement of loans and easing requirements.
  • 10 July: Saudi Arabia hosts G20 talks with Paris Forum to discuss post-pandemic global economy.
  • 5 July: Interior ministry confirms three-month extension of exit and return visas issued to foreign residents who were either unable to leave the kingdom or to return from abroad because of the closure of borders, and residence permits of expats outside the country whose validity expired during the lockdown. Final exit visas of foreign residents and the visit visas of foreigners who were unable to leave the kingdom before they expired will also be extended.
  • 2 July: Royal decree issued to extend government initiatives supporting businesses, employees and investors and the private sector. Measures include postponing VAT payments and accelerating reimbursements, and partial exemption from expired residency and iqama fees for an additional month. 
  • 28 June: Saudi-US scientific research team comprising Saudivax and the US' Abound Bio enters licensing agreement to develop Covid-19 treatment, Arab News reports.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 59,546
  • Recoveries: 52,905
  • Deaths: 347

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 23 July: Free Covid-19 testing announced in the emirates of Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. UAE says Covid-19 PCR tests will be mandatory for all inbound and transit passengers, including Emiratis, residents and tourists, arriving via the country's airports, irrespective of the countries they are coming from.
  • 22 July: Capacity of mosques to remain 30 per cent over Eid al-Adha, after which it will increase to 50 per cent. Officials say Eid prayers must be performed at home. Citizens, residents, tourists and transit travellers, regardless of their country of departure, must be tested before entry at the UAE's airports from 1 August.
  • 21 July: Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Fujairah, instructs federal Ministry of Health & Prevention to conduct free coronavirus tests for both citizens and residents in the emirate. Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge issues guidelines to reopen private schools in the new academic year.
  • 8 July: Ministry of Interior says it has trained sniffer dogs to detect Covid-19, with trials recording a detection accuracy rate of about 92 per cent.
  • 6 July: Government confirms plans to conduct more than two million tests in the next two months. 
  • 28 June: UAE suspends all flights arriving from Pakistan, one of Asia's worst-hit countries for Covid-19. 
  • 27 June: UAE authorities urge public against recklessness in terms of following precautionary measures. 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 28 July: Dubai South extends incentive package for Business Park and Business Centre clients until the end of the year. The stimulus package offers a 50 per cent reduction each in Business Centre set up and in license fees for new company formation and renewals at the Business Park and Business Centre. Dubai South is also offering flexible payment plans with instalment schemes as well as a waiver of penalties for late renewals and cancellations of contracts and licenses. 
  • 27 July: Government confirms decision to resume the circulation of newspapers, magazines and paper-based marketing materials. These items cannot be distributed in public spaces such as cafés, but may be sent to offices where they may be read and used by one person exclusively. Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, ADQ, Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, Abu Dhabi Ports Company, Khalifa University of Science and Technology and Unilabs say they are manufacturing a chemical solution to extract the ribonucleic acid (RNA) of Covid-19. Their daily production rate will cover 25 per cent of the local sector's demand and help cut imports. Private sector companies in Abu Dhabi may now have 60 per cent of their staff in offices.
  • 26 July: Government offices in the emirate of Ajman to return to full capacity on 3 August. The decision includes the cancellation of exemptions for specific categories of staff from returning to work. It also exempts employees with chronic diseases, provided that they can present a medical report approved by medical authorities, which must be subsequently approved by the emirate’s medical committee. 
  • 23 July: Flag carrier Emirates to offer free medical cover for expenses related to Covid-19. Abu Dhabi starts phase three testing of inactivated Covid-19 vaccine. 
  • 22 July: Visas of UAE residents stranded abroad will expire without exception, and those whose visas expire after 12 July have a month to renew the document before fines begin. 
  • 19 July: Ninety doctors from Al-Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital in Dubai awarded 10-year golden card residency visas in recognition of their efforts to support young patients during Covid-19. General secretary of the Emirates Cricket Board reportedly says the UAE will extend full support to the Indian Premier League cricket tournament if it is hosted in the country instead of India, where case numbers are rapidly growing.
  • 18 July: Dubai Future Council for Transportation reviews post-pandemic strategies. Transportation experts in attendance at the meeting with Dubai's Roads & Transport Authority unanimously rated the preparedness of the global transportation sector during the Covid-19 pandemic at four out of 10.
  • 14 July: Department of Health – Abu Dhabi meets delegation from Sinopharm China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and Group 42 (G42) to discuss future plans as part of the first of three stages of clinical trials to find a potential vaccine for Covid-19.
  • 13 July: Third-stage study of a possible vaccine against Covid-19 approved by the Ethics Committee Scientific Research in Abu Dhabi. UAE Covid-19 data platform, created by the Ministry of Health & Prevention, the National Emergency Crisis & Disasters Management Authority and the Federal Competitiveness & Statistics Authority, is launched. Dubai Chamber launches online marketplace for personal protective equipment (PPE). 
  • 12 July: Abu Dhabi Fund for Development suspends debt service repayments during 2020 for eligible countries and businesses. Three startups win contest to join Tecom Group accelerator In5 for a limited period to address the impact of Covid-19 on the region and beyond.
  • 11 July: Dubai approves AED1.5bn ($408.4m) in financial support for hospitality, construction and education sectors, bringing total value of relief packages since the onset of Covid-19 to about AED6.3bn.
  • 10 July: UAE updates visa rules, with residents given three-month grace period to update residency and visa documents. One-month grace period provided for renewal of visas from the date of arrival to the UAE for GCC passport holders and UAE residents who have spent less than six months out of the country.
  • 6 July: Business tenants of Dubai Developments Group properties in the emirate, including small firms and entrepreneurs, will be exempted from paying rents for periods from three to six months following directives issued by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.
  • 5 July: UAE government restructured to be more agile in post-pandemic economy. The Ministry of Industry & Advanced Technology will be created as part of the UAE government, and the existing ministries for energy and infrastructure will be merged. Three senior ministerial appointments will be made at the Ministry of Economy, and Omar al-Olama, currently the UAE’s minister of state for artificial intelligence, will take on the newly created post of minister of state for digital economy, artificial intelligence & applications for teleworking.
  • 4 July: Abu Dhabi residents allowed to take 48-hour trips outside the emirate. Motorists must get tested in the city before they leave and display these results upon their return. Commuters travelling into Abu Dhabi from other emirates must still be tested before they arrive at the border.
  • 3 July: UAE citizens and residents are now able to travel. Travel will only be permitted if the individual receives a negative Covid-19 result and has international health insurance that is valid throughout the period of travel, and covers the destination they are travelling to.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 39,921
  • Recoveries: 36,531
  • Deaths: 141

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 28 July: Eid al-Adha prayers in Bahrain are to be performed at home at 5:31am on Friday, the Sunni Endowment Department says. Mosques have been closed in Bahrain as part of preventive measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus through congregations.
  • 19 July: Southern Governorate receives 2,000 medical masks donated by the Bahrain Society for Women Development and the Good Imprint Association.
  • 13 July: Passengers coming to Bahrain must pay BD30 for a Covid-19 test at Bahrain International airport.
  • 5 July: Abdul Hakim Al-Shameri, a member of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce, calls for gradual reopening of King Fahd Causeway to ensure health precautions are followed. The bridge linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is planned to open on 27 July.
  • 26 June: Legislators table bill proposing mandatory distance learning in the new school year.
  • 22 June: Bahrain International airport adopts new security measures that include mandatory face masks and temperature scanning, social distancing measures and limited access to airport areas to ensure biosecurity protocols are being followed.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 27 July: Cabinet decides to exempt citizen subscribers of electricity and water services in their first household from paying municipal fees for a period of three months starting from July 2020. Ministry of Education directed to take the necessary measures to prepare for the 2020/21 academic year for both public and private schools, with the choice of in-person or remote learning for students left to their parents.
  • 23 July: Gyms, sports halls, outdoor sports fields and swimming pools allowed to reopen from 6 August.
  • 19 July: Nationality, Passports & Residence Affairs agency extends the validity of all valid and expired visit visas for an additional three months – from 21 July until 21 October 2020. Visitors who intend to stay in the country beyond 21 October will be allowed to apply through the eVisa portal to renew their visit visas.
  • 15 July: Bahrain said to be considering blended learning, comprising in-class and online teaching options, as school resumption is targeted for September. Reopening of mosques is delayed until case numbers decline.
  • 14 July: King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa issues Decree-Law 22/2020 to inject BD177.3m into this year’s state budget to deal with emergency expenditures incurred amid Covid-19. Also approved is a memorandum recommending the temporary suspension of the deductions of oil revenues allocated to the Future Generations Reserve Fund until the end of the fiscal year 2020, the withdrawal of $450m as a one-time instance from the fund, and approving the issuance of a decree-law disposing part of the fund. The measures are intended to support the state’s general budget during the remainder of the fiscal year 2020. 
  • 12 July: China National Electric Engineering Corporation revealed to have donated Covid-19 equipment to Bahrain's Electricity & Water Authority and is willing to ramp up support.
  • 11 July: Social Insurance Organisation to pay, from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, a maximum of 50 per cent of the salaries of Bahrainis working in private sector companies most adversely affected by the pandemic, provided that the Bahraini employee is insured as at the end of June 2020, or is employed and insured through the National Employment Programme by the end of the month. Companies eligible for the benefits include operations in sectors that felt business disruption and could not pay wages, retained its Bahraini employees during 2020 and expressed commitment to paying the remaining portion of the salaries of the Bahraini employees in full and without deduction on the date set for salary payments.
  • 6 July: Cabinet approves decision to reduce some fees imposed by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority on all types of work permits for one year, and all monthly fees related to them by 50 per cent for three months, starting from July. 
  • 29 June: Government to pay 50 per cent of salaries for private sector workers most impacted by Covid-19. Payments to start from July, with government also confirming extension of assistance to Bahraini citizens by paying their electricity and water bills.
  • 21 June: National Taskforce for Combating Coronavirus is said to be in discussions with Bahrain's Interior Ministry, Bahrain Airport Company and Gulf Air to establish a Covid-19 protocol for Bahrain International airport. 
  • 15 June: Ministerial Committee for Financial & Economic Affairs & Fiscal Balance is to review studies and initiatives submitted by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Bahraini Businessmen's Association on the sectors that have been affected by Covid-19. The panel is also tasked by the cabinet with studying the impacts of the pandemic on the Bahraini economy, and is to submit its recommendations on the two matters. The cabinet also endorsed, based on a recommendation by the Government Executive Committee, a draft decree on including emergency expenses in the general state budget for 2020. Submitted by the Minister of Finance & National Economy, the bill aims to allocate a budget not exceeding BD177m to deal with the emergency expenses required for mitigating Covid-19's impact and curbing its spread.  
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 65,149
  • Recoveries: 55,681
  • Deaths: 442

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 26 July: Free Covid-19 tests to be offered at government hospitals for citizens and expatriates. 
  • 20 July: Cultural and art events by the National Council of Culture, Art and Letters postponed to 2021 due to Covid-19. The organisation is considering a virtual platform to host the Kuwait International Book Fair before the end of November. 
  • 18 June: Public sector employees will not be allowed to return to work from offices following week due to growth in Covid-19 cases. 
  • 18 May: Kuwait makes wearing masks in public mandatory, with jail time threatened for violators.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 28 July: Directorate General of Civil Aviation says airlines operating at Kuwait International airport will start commercial flights to 20 countries on 1 August. The airlines that will start operating are those of the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the UK, Turkey, Iran, Nepal, Switzerland, Germany, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and India, DGCA's director of the air transport department, Abdullah al-Rajhi, said.
  • 27 July: The Kuwaiti government is getting ready to reopen its airport for commercial flights on 1 August. Travellers must register their flight details at www.kuwaitmosafer.com to schedule an appointment for their Covid-19 tests, which most countries are asking of their arriving passengers. Kuwait International airport will reopen on 1 August at 30 per cent capacity under the first of a three-phase plan.
  • 23 July: Phase three of Kuwait's reopening to get under way from 28 July. Curfew hours will be shortened to 9pm-3am and worshippers will be able to attend Eid al-Adha prayers at select mosques. 
  • 21 July: Civil aviation authority releases guidelines to ensure the safe resumption of air travel next month, with measures including random testing of passengers, mandatory use of face masks, and maintaining physical distance. Departing travellers are required to provide negative Covid-19 certificates before boarding and the manual checking of tickets will be replaced with digital scanning to avoid physical contact. 
  • 18 July: Public Authority for Industry (PAI) says it is establishing a six-month stock of protective masks. The daily local production of masks is estimated at more than five million, with 522 tons of raw materials currently available at industrial facilities and 133 tons of imported raw materials to increase production capacity. The number of mask manufacturing factories since the outbreak has increased from one to nine.
  • 15 July: Kuwait University to begin new academic year online on 9 August. 
  • 13 July: Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, Kuwait Municipality and Public authority for Food and Nutrition to prepare a comprehensive plan to avoid overcrowding during slaughtering and distributing sacrifices around Eid al-Adha. Kuwait Oil Company confirms budgetary cut of 25 per cent and operating expense reduction of 18 per cent for the 2020/21 fiscal year as part of measures to boost "state financial stability". The national oil company also confirmed projects had been cancelled as part of austerity measures. 
  • 8 July: Ministry of Finance approves disbursement of KD240.5m to 70,000 Kuwaitis following a request submitted by the Public Authority for Manpower.
  • 2 July: Kuwait International airport to reopen from 1 August, and will operate at 30 per cent capacity for six months, capping out at 10,000 passengers and 100 daily flights. The country plans to raise capacity to 60 per cent in February 2021 and full capacity in August 2021.
  • 25 June: Second of five-phase plan to restore normalcy by September to begin on 30 June and span three weeks. Curfew hours to be reduced to 8pm–5am. Public and private sectors will resume work with less than 30 per cent capacity, in addition to the resumption of work in the financial and construction sectors, malls and retail shops, parks, and pick-ups from restaurants and cafes. Lockdown of Farwaniya, Jleeb al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula to continue until further notice.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 77,904
  • Recoveries: 58,587
  • Deaths: 402

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 21 July: Two-week curfew to be reimposed in the sultanate from 25 July as case numbers continue to grow. Inter-region travel is banned, as are gatherings over the Eid al-Adha holiday. Restrictions cover all types of movements, with public places and shops to remain closed from 7pm-6am, with intensified patrols and points of control in the daytime.
  • 14 July: Supreme committee for Covid-19 decides to continue lockdowns in Dhofar and Masirah. 
  • 5 July: Ministry of Health to conduct country-wide Covid-19 survey covering locals and expats on 12 July. The survey will be carried out in four rounds over 10 five-day weeks, with testing to be conducted randomly. Survey results will be used to determine when movement restrictions can be eased and all activities can resume. Oman hopes the survey will also reveal antibodies that can reveal the prevalence of Covid-19 and its cumulative infection level in the country.
  • 21 June: Labour ministry may fine private sector facilities up to RO500 for violating public health procedures. 
  • 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: 

  • 27 July: Ministry of Health said to stop Covid-19 tests at government hospitals so that medical staff can focus on severe cases. Individuals showing symptoms of Covid-19 will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days or visit private hospitals for tests.
  • 26 July: Minister of Health, Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saidi, says his ministry is working with the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation to procure 700,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is produced.
  • 23 July: Supreme committee to oversee Covid-19 measures approves travel by air, with flight frequency to be increased gradually. Incoming travellers will have to complete 14 days of isolation. Specific dates have yet to be provided for the resumption of air travel.
  • 20 July: Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries chairs regional UN Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting on ways to address the impacts of Covid-19 on agriculture and food security in the region.
  • 13 July: Public Authority for Water (Diam) approves three-month package to provide financial relief for privately held small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the healthcare, education, travel and tourism, banking and journalism sectors. 
  • 12 July: Public Establishment for Industrial Estate (Madayn) cancels select entry and storage fees at Mazyouna Free Zone. Atomzlab, based in Madayn's National Business Centre, increases production of 3D-printed anti-microbial masks.
  • 5 July: Health ministry urges tougher action on businesses flouting precautionary requirements and will conduct spot checks to ensure compliance.
  • 2 July: Health minister Ahmed bin Mohammad al-Saeedi says "scary" growth in Covid-19 cases has led the sultanate to create plans for raising healthcare capacity, with a temporary hospital for non-urgent cases expected to be established in Muscat.
  • 24 June: More than 50 commercial and industrial activities reopen, including real estate offices, travel agencies, maintenance businesses and dry cleaners.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 109,880
  • Recoveries: 106,603
  • Deaths: 167

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 22 July: Doha says travellers from low-risk countries must undergo a second test and their quarantine period will end if results come back negative. However, if the traveller tests positive, they will be transferred to a government facility for isolation.
  • 15 July: Al-Sadd and Umm-Salal football clubs fined QR30,000 each for failing to meet all precautionary requirements for resumption of 2019/20 season.
  • 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: 

  • 26 July: Third phase of economic resumption begins tomorrow. Gatherings will be limited to 10 people in closed spaces and 30 in open spaces as part of this phase.
  • 22 July: Ministry of Public Health's list of low-risk countries – to be reviewed every two weeks – currently comprises 40 countries including China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Greece, Algeria, Turkey, Morocco, Canada and Switzerland, among others.
  • 21 July: Citizens and permanent residency visa holders allowed to travel from and return to Qatar. Residency visa holders may start returning from 1 August, and all arrivals from low-risk countries are required to take a coronavirus test at the airport and sign a formal pledge to adhere to quarantine at home for a week. Low-risk travellers are not required to be tested at the airport if they have results from an accredited test taken within 48 hours prior to their arrival.
  • 16 July: Qatari Ministry of Education & Higher Education has announced that students of both government and private schools can return to classrooms when the new academic year begins on 1 September. School staff will resume work on 19 August, and attendance is mandatory during the new academic year for both staff and students.
  • 1 July: Second phase of economic resumption begins. Commercial activities are allowed to resume in malls and commercial centres, while gaming centres, amusement parks, skateboard arenas, prayer rooms and cinemas will remain closed. Restaurants operating inside malls and commercial centres are allowed to deliver to home addresses, or hand over orders at the restaurant. This decision also prohibits any artistic, cultural or recreational activities at malls and commercial centres.
  • 28 June: Supreme Committee for Crisis Management says restaurants, public beaches and parks to reopen at limited capacity from 1 July. Public and private gatherings of a maximum of five people will be allowed, and employees in the public and private sector can work from offices at 50 per cent capacity.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 296,273
  • Recoveries: 257,019
  • Deaths: 16,147

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 25 July: President Hassan Rouhani urges population to observe caution during Eid al-Adha festivities in August.
  • 18 July: Rouhani says more than 25 million Iranians may have contracted the coronavirus and 14,000 may have died due to the illness, based on an “estimated scenario” from a health ministry research report. Restrictions were reimposed for a week in Tehran, including banning religious and cultural functions, closing boarding schools, cafes, indoor pools, amusement parks and zoos. From 19 July, 22 cities and towns in the southwestern Khuzestan province will be under a three-day lockdown, Reuters reported.
  • 15 July: Museums in Tehran closed again for one week as virus numbers rise. Art and cultural centres, universities, schools, seminaries, English schools, libraries, movie theatres, museums, mosques, beauty salons and several other entities have also been shut down amid a sharp rise in the number of new cases and fatalities.  
  • 4 July: Wearing masks is mandated. Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols will be shut for a week. Government employees that do not wear masks will be considered absentees. 
  • 28 June: Campaign launched to encourage Iranians, especially the young, to wear masks.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 27 July: Managing director of Iran's Food & Drug Administration says Actemra medicine, based on the tocilizumab drug, is being manufactured by a local company after the US' Food & Drug Administration said it may help recovery in Covid-19 patients. Actemra will not be available in Iranian drugstores and will be reserved for severe in-hospital cases. Permits have yet to be issued for its local use, news agency IRNA reported.
  • 19 July: Iranian health authorities clarify that Rouhani's statement that 25 million Iranians may have Covid-19 was based on serological blood tests that measure exposure to the illness and that cannot be relied on to show the current state of disease, Reuters reports.
  • 15 July: Iran will start producing the antiviral agent remdesivir for the treatment of coronavirus patients next week, Health Minister Saeed Namaki says, according to Iran Press news agency.
  • 11 July: President Hassan Rouhani warns Iran cannot afford to shut down all economic activities to curb the spread. "The simplest solution is to close down all activities, [but] the next day, people would come out to protest the [resulting] chaos, hunger, hardship and pressure," he added, according to Arab News.
  • 27 June: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Iranian economy will worsen if Covid-19 spreads unchecked, and warns public against negligence to curb the spread.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 92,947
  • Recoveries: 35,959
  • Deaths: 4,691

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 22 July: Government issues new restrictions to co-exist with Covid-19 with effect from 26 July. Beaches and parks to remain closed, with restaurants allowed to operate until midnight at 15 per cent capacity. Cinemas to operate at 25 per cent capacity, and commercial shops and malls to close at 10pm. The gradual return of Friday prayers will be studied, and official conferences or meetings will be allowed provided events are held with 50 participants or fewer in a hall that can accommodate at least 100 individuals.
  • 3 June: Parliament warns against crowding in food markets. 
  • 1 June: Prisons sterilised and prisoners provided polymerase chain reaction (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: 

  • 27 July: Head of health ministry's Covid-19 committee, Hossam Hosny, reportedly warns that the second wave of the illness could hit Egypt in November, adding that the country is ready for all scenarios. He added that the ministry now has a large stock of covalescent plasma as well.
  • 20 July: Parliament approves law cutting the net monthly income of all employees in the public and private sectors by 1 per cent to counter the impact of Covid-19. The draft bill excluded employees whose monthly salaries do not exceed £E2,000. Savings are to be deposited into an account at the Central Bank of Egypt and allocated to support economic sectors and small and medium-sized enterprises affected by the global pandemic, as well as to pay financial subsidies to workers in these sectors.
  • 18 July: Minister of Health Hala Zayed says 20 per cent of ventilators had been used in the past week in the country, down from 97 per cent at the peak of the virus. The country has reserved 30 million packets of a potential coronavirus vaccine set to be produced by a UK-based pharmaceutical company. She told Al-Hekaya TV show that the British company plans to produce up to 400 million packets. An Egyptian pharmaceutical company has also submitted a request to produce the vaccine, Zayed added.
  • 13 July: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi calls for completion of National Project for Self-Sufficiency of Plasma Derivatives, aimed at reducing the need for ventilators in Covid-19 patients and boosting recovery times. Health & Population Ministry warns disinfection gates may not be effective in workplaces, following similar advice from the World Health Organisation.
  • 1 July: Egypt starts to reopen as airport resumes activity and other public transport is allowed to resume. 
  • 25 June: Local manufacturer Eva Pharma starts producing antiviral remdesivir as potential Covid-19 treatment drug. The European Medicines Agency has received a recommendation from its human medicines committee urging conditional approval of remdesivir to treat adults and adolescents who are also suffering from pneumonia. Eva Pharma is also producing 1 million tablets of Japan’s Favipiravir drug, said to accelerate recovery and sold under the brand name Avigan, and is set to make them available within July.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 115,332
  • Recoveries: 81,062
  • Deaths: 4,535

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 27 July: Health Ministry official tells local official newspaper Al-Sabaah that implementing a partial ban may continue to be necessary after Eid al-Adha holidays. Full curfew confirmed from 30 July to 9 August.
  • 27 June: Growing case numbers lead to reimposition of curfew in areas including Basra province and Maysan in southern Iraq.
  • 22 June: Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi says country is nearing the peak of infections, adding ministry plans to develop temporary hospitals with a capacity of 400 beds in various provinces as soon as possible.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 16 July: Airports will be allowed to open on 23 July and malls are to reopen soon provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines and health precautions. Lockdown hours will be reduced and be in effect from 9pm-5am, and the total curfew will be revised after the Eid al-Adha holiday. Al-Mundhiriyah, Safwan and Al-Shaib border crossings are to reopen for trade and commercial exchange, Iraq's Higher Committee for Health & Public Safety says. 
  • 13 July: Health ministry said to have provided 300 ventilators to medical institutions.
  • 7 July: Southern Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran partially reopened after three months of closure. The crossing is being opened only for the trade of foodstuffs, allowing in 500 trucks from Iran per week and will open every Wednesday and Sunday, Arab News reports.
  • 28 June: Iraqi medical students called on to volunteer at hospitals amid surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths. 
  • 26 June: UAE send six tonnes of medical supplies to Iraqi Kurdistan. 
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,182
  • Recoveries: 1,042
  • Deaths: 11

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 28 July: Truck drivers entering Jordan from Gulf countries via land borders must undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine, Roya News reports.
  • 29 June: Health minister says local transmission of the virus is reducing but warns of second wave if precautionary measures are not adhered to.  
  • 28 June: Repatriation operations for Jordanians overseas have been suspended until due to changes in quarantine and medical examination procedures, and the recent increase in the number of coronavirus cases. Pre-scheduled flights will not be affected by the decision.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 26 July: Airports to resume flights at full capacity from 5 August. 
  • 22 July: Curfew reduced by one hour and will now be in effect from 1am-5am. Working hours for all economic activities have been extended until midnight. 
  • 21 July: List of low-risk countries updated and now includes Canada, China, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, New Zeeland, Norway, Switzerland, Taiwan and Monaco, in addition to those announced on 16 July. Passengers travelling from a red or orange status country must transit through a green status country for a 14-day period before travelling to Jordan, and anyone caught attempting to enter the country without completing 14 days in a green status country or providing invalid test results will face a JD10,000 fine, Roya News reports. Domestic flights will resume this week and the government plans to open international travel from early-August. 
  • 20 July: Employers may reduce the salaries of their employees by 20 per cent instead of the previously approved 30 per cent. Minister of Labour Nidal al-Batayneh reportedly said salary cuts may only be implemented for employees in the worst pandemic-hit sectors. Airports in Jordan will reopen next week, Roya News reports.
  • 16 July: Jordan reveals countries from which travel will be permitted. These include Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Hong Kong and Thailand. Travellers from these destinations will not need to quarantine if they have undergone a Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to arrival. Queen Alia International airport is expected to reopen in the first half of August.
  • 15 July: Schools to reopen on 1 September, with education ministry envisioning three options – regular clases, online learning or in-class learning in shifts – based on country's Covid-19 situation at the time. Airports in the country will remain closed until at least 1 August, and citizens will be allowed to be repatriated from 10 destinations without needing to quarantine upon arrival, Roya News reports. Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission's precuationary measures for when airports reopen include the division of countries into three colour-coded categories that will be reviewed periodically, and based on which pre-flight Covid-19 test requirements will be set out for travellers.
  • 13 July: JD27m to be distributed to families in need of relief due to the financial impact of Covid-19. It marks the third and final payment from the Himat Watan fund established in April to aid Jordanians and facilitate the return of citizens stranded abroad. Decision to lift midnight curfew has yet to be made, local Roya News reports.
  • 11 July: Government confirms plans to reopen schools from 10 August. State Minister for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh says 411 applications had been received from people wishing to visit Jordan for medical tourism from Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
  • 5 July: Prime Minister Omar Razzaz says Jordan will reopen its airports at the end of July and flights will resume to a limited number of countries.
  • 27 June: Amusement parks and play centres in tourist resorts, and special education centres, allowed to reopen from 28 June, provided precautionary measures are adhered to.
  • 21 June: Education ministry considers resuming the next academic year two weeks earlier than planned to make up for lost time.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 4,023
  • Recoveries: 1,710
  • Deaths: 54

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 27 July: Health Minister Hamad Hassan slams lack of compliance with precautionary measures and confirms the country will reimpose a two-week lockdown from 30 July. Arab News reported he added that the community outbreak of the disease was beginning to take a “dangerous turn” and he regretted “the lack of community discipline and disregard for all preventive measures imposed on people.” Passengers arriving through Beirut International airport must carry a negative Covid-19 test result from their port of departure and will have to stay in quarantine for two days at their own expense in special centers, pending the results of the second PCR test at the airport.
  • 14 July: Fines ranging from £Leb550,000 to £Leb5m said to have been introduced for individuals not wearing masks.
  • 1 July: Cabinet extends Covid-19 measures until mid-August to curb Covid-19 cases.
  • 4 June: Government has extended its "general mobilisation against coronavirus" measures for another four weeks, Arab News reports. The extension is based on recommendations from Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council.

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 24 June: Reopened Rafik Hariri International airport to reduce number of flights from countries where the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are not available to passengers to 20 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Arab News reports. Flights from countries that have the test will be at 80 per cent of previous levels. Those arriving from countries with PCR tests must produce the results, which must be less than four days old, during check-in. All passengers must be tested at Beirut airport.
  • 21 June: US State Department to contribute $20m to support 1,800 students at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University. 
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 21,387
  • Recoveries: 17,066
  • Deaths: 327

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 28 July: Restrictions on inter-city travel to last 14 days. “In two weeks, the rise in coronavirus cases was higher than the first four months of the confinement,” Health Minister Khaled Ait Taleb said, according to North Africa Post.
  • 27 July: Travel to and from Tangier, Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Casablanca, Berrechid, Settat and Marrakesh is banned to curb the spread of Covid-19. Exemptions include people with urgent medical requirements, select workers and the transportation of goods and commodities. 
  • 15 July: Interior ministry temporarily closes 514 factories and businesses across the country for non-compliance with precautionary measures as case clusters emerge in industrial areas.
  • 13 July: Tangier to be locked down and isolated, with all public transport to and from the city to be suspended. Citizens may travel within the city provided they have received authorisation from local entities. Tangier is said to account for 20 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in Morocco.
  • 9 July: Health emergency decree granting power to place parts of the country under lockdown as required is extended until 10 August. 
  • 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: 

  • 23 July: European Bank for Reconstruction and Development approves $100m loan to Morocco's Banque Centrale Populaire to support local small businesses affected by the pandemic.
  • 14 July: Government allocates MBD6bn ($623m) for flag carrier Royal Air Maroc.
  • 8 July: Air and sea borders to open for Moroccan citizens living abroad and foreign citizens living in Morocco on 14 July. Passengers will be required to present, before boarding, a PCR test conducted less than 48 hours before the trip, as well as a serological test. Ferry rides will also be scheduled departing from France and Italy, with similar pre-boarding requirements as air travel. 
  • 23 June: Flag carrier RAM to resume domestic flights on 25 June.
  • 21 June: Cafes, restaurants, sports clubs and services and entertainment businesses are allowed to reopen at 50 per cent capacity from 24 June in all provinces except Tangier, Larache, Marrakech and Kenitra. Domestic flights and rail lines to resume but international travel remains closed. 
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 3,017
  • Recoveries: 579
  • Deaths: 67

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19: 

  • 19 July: Curfew extended for 15 days until 2 August by government in Tripoli.
  • 7 July: Government extends curfew until 17 July. A 24-hour weekend curfew and the ban on inter-city movement continue to be enforced.
  • 9 June: The Chinese Embassy to Libya has sent a shipment of medical aid to help fight the pandemic.
  • 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: 

  • 9 July: African Development Bank grants $480,000 to Libya under the Special Relief Fund for the procurement of personal protective equipment.
  • 8 July: National Oil Corporation (NOC) lifts force majeure at the Es-Sider oil terminal. Export resumption was blocked after guards prevented a tanker from being loaded.
  • 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 earmarks LD500m ($357.6m) for anti-coronavirus measures.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,468
  • Recoveries: 1,168
  • Deaths: 50

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 27 July: New measures announced for arrivals from abroad. Members of the same family, coming from countries not classified on its 'green' or 'orange' safety lists, must go through mandatory isolation. Passengers from a country on the 'orange' list travelling without a Covid-19 test result will be in quarantine for at least three days until the Tunisian health ministry completes testing. As of 23 July, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland were part of Tunisia's green list. The orange list of countries according to the the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases covers 44 countries, including Canada, Greece, Turkey, Portugal, Morocco, Lebanon, Senegal and Cameroon.
  • 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: 

  • 21 July: World Bank says international support package with macro-financial assistance from the EU for Tunisia will total $600-700m this year. The World Bank has approved $175m to support the reform package.
  • 13 July: Tunisia is negotiating delaying its debt repayments with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and Italy, and plans to arrange a new deal with the Washington-based IMF in four months. Deferral request comes as Tunisian economy braces for budget deficit to widen to 7 per cent of the GDP, Finance Minister Nizar Yaich says.
  • 27 June: Tunisia reopens land, sea and air borders for the first time in more than three months. Some operations restart at Tunis-Carthage airport, with flights to Rome, Geneva and Paris also scheduled to depart.
  • 23 June: Garment industry body Fédération tunisienne du textile et de l'habillement said to plan post-pandemic recovery plan. France to loan Tunisia $396m to deal with crisis caused by Covid-19.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 28,615
  • Recoveries: 19,233
  • Deaths: 1,174

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 26 July: Partial lockdown measures to be implemented for 15 days in 29 provinces to prevent the spread of Covid-19.  These will take effect from 28 July and include a curfew from 8pm-5am, as well as a ban on road traffic from and to the provinces.
  • 9 July: Road movement ban implemented for one week from 10 July in provinces including Boumerdes, Souk Ahras, Tessimsilt, Djelfa, Mascara, Oum El Bouaghi, Batna, Bouira, Relizane, Biskra, Khenchela, Msila, Chlef, Sidi Belabbes, Medea, Blida, Bordj Bou-Arreridj, Tipaza, Ouargla, Bechar, Algiers, Constantine, Oran, Setif, Annaba, Bejaia, Adrar, Laghouat and El Oued. Public transport was also barred over the weekend.
  • 28 June: President Abdelmadjid Tebboune says Algeria to keep the land, air and sea borders closed until the end of the Covid-19 crisis. He added during the cabinet meeting that firmer measures would be taken against citizens that do not respect preventive measures.
  • 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: 

  • 27 July: Tax payments said to be suspended for state and private sector firms impacted by Covid-19. Loans will also be rescheduled for companies hit by losses due to restrictions to curb the pandemic. 
  • 18 July: Committee said to be established to assess the impact of the pandemic on the national economy.
  • 17 July: Algeria is planning a law to protect health workers after an increase in “physical and verbal attacks”, Gulf News reports. 
  • 9 July: State's special insurance to be granted to medical professionals directly involved with Covid-19 treatment.
  • 6 July: Government does not plan to renew nationwide lockdown at the moment but could enforce region-specific closures if cases spike and precautionary measures are not complied with.
  • 22 June: Flag carrier Air Algerie starts revalidation of 600,000 tickets for domestic and international flights cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. 
  • 14 June: Further relaxation of restrictions planned. Government to lift curfew in 19 provinces and shorten it in the remaining 29, including in the capital Algiers, where it will run from 8pm–5am instead of 7pm–7am. Buses and taxis to resume with limitations on passenger numbers, and paid leave provided to 50 per cent of government employees to end.
As of 10.30 GST, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,703
  • Recoveries: 840
  • Deaths: 484

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–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 UAE newspaper the National. “We also need medical equipment such as a complete biological units, 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, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 694
  • Recoveries: 220
  • Deaths: 40

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:

  • 24 June: Syrian health ministry receives new batch of medical aid from China, including testing kits, protective suits, face masks, goggles and infrared thermometers.
  • 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, 29 July 2020. Click here for Covid-19 updates in Mena during June 2020.
 
28 July: Covid-19 lockdowns return ahead of Eid al-Adha

Regional countries look to curb non-essential movement as Mena case tally crosses 1.17 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,177,865 on 28 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The six GCC countries collectively account for 52.5 per cent of all confirmed cases, while countries in the wider Mena region, excluding Iran, make up 22.6 per cent of all cases.

Ahead of the Eid al-Adha festivities due to begin later this week, several Mena nations have clamped down on non-compliance with health precautions and are reimposing lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus. 

After Algeria confirmed closures on 26 July, Lebanon, which has confirmed 3,882 cases to date, with 1,709 recoveries and 51 deaths, is reintroducing a lockdown later this week.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan slammed the lack of compliance with precautionary measures in the wider population, and confirmed that the country would reimpose a two-week lockdown from 30 July.

He was quoted as saying the community outbreak of the disease was beginning to take a “dangerous turn” and he regretted “the lack of community discipline and disregard for all preventive measures imposed on people.”

In Morocco, travel to and from Tangier, Tetouan, Fez, Meknes, Casablanca, Berrechid, Settat and Marrakesh has been banned to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Exemptions include people with urgent medical requirements, select workers and the transportation of goods and commodities. 

On 21 July,  Oman announced that a two-week curfew will be reimposed in the sultanate from 25 July as case numbers continue to grow.

Morocco has confirmed 20,887 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 16,553 recoveries and 316 deaths.

Iraq is also mulling tightening restrictions after the Eid al-Adha break this weekend.

An official from Iraq's Ministry of Health told local newspaper Al-Sabaah that implementing a partial ban may continue to be necessary after Eid al-Adha holidays as case numbers grow in the country.

So far, 112,585 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Iraq, with 77,144 recoveries and 4,458 deaths due to Covid-19.

 

27 July: Algeria to reimpose Covid-19 lockdown

North African country's restrictions come as Middle East and North Africa tally of Covid-19 cases crosses 1.16 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,166,339 on 27 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 52.6 per cent of all regional cases.

Recovery rates in the GCC states also outperform those in the wider Mena region. In the UAE, 58,913 cases have been confirmed to date, with 52,182 recoveries and 344 deaths reported so far.

On 26 July, it was announced that government offices in the emirate of Ajman would return to full capacity on 3 August.

The decision includes the cancellation of exemptions for specific categories of staff from returning to work. It also exempts employees with chronic diseases, provided that they can present a medical report approved by medical authorities, which must be subsequently approved by the emirate’s medical committee.

Case numbers are growing in the wider Mena region, which makes up 22.4 per cent of the total 1.16 million cases reported regionally.

Partial lockdown measures will be implemented for 15 days in 29 Algerian provinces starting tomorrow to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Restrictions include a curfew from 8pm-5am, as well as a ban on road traffic from and to the provinces.

To date, Algeria has confirmed 27,357 cases of Covid-19, with 18,088 recoveries and 1,155 deaths.

 

26 July: Saudi land borders reopen as Covid-19 curbs ease

Kingdom's shared borders with the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain open after four months of closure

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,154,916 on 26 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC collectively account for 52.8 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia continues to have the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the GCC, with 264,973 confirmed infections, 217,782 recoveries and 2,703 deaths.

On 23 July, Saudi citizens, their immediate family members and their domestic staff were allowed to enter the kingdom by land from Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE without obtaining prior authorisation.

It marks the reopening of land borders between Saudi Arabia and its three GCC neighbours four months after land travel was closed to curb Covid-19. 

With 288,839 cases, Iran alone accounts for 25 per cent of the Mena total.

To date, Iran has confirmed 251,319 recoveries and 15,484 deaths due to Covid-19.

Wider Mena nations including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Syria, Morocco and Lebanon together comprise 22.2 per cent of all regional infections.

 

23 July: Mena Covid-19 cases exceed 1.1 million

GCC countries have 53.1 per cent of all infections confirmed in the Mena region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,117,982 on 23 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC now account for 53.1 per cent of all confirmed Covid-19 infections in Mena.

With 281,413 confirmed cases, 244,840 recoveries and 14,853 deaths, Iran has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

It is followed by Saudi Arabia, where 258,156 cases have been confirmed to date, alongside 210,398 recoveries and 2,601 deaths.

Qatar is the Mena region's third worst-hit country for Covid-19 infections. 

So far, 107,871 cases have been reported in Qatar, with 104,641 recoveries and 163 deaths.

On 22 July, Qatar announced additional information about travellers to the country.

Travellers from low-risk countries must undergo a second test and their quarantine period will end if results come back negative.

However, if the traveller tests positive, they will be transferred to a government facility for isolation.

Qatar's list of low-risk travel markets currently comprises 40 countries, including China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Greece, Algeria, Turkey, Morocco, Canada and Switzerland.

 

22 July: Oman curfew returns amid Covid-19 case spike

Sultanate to resume restrictions from 25 July as infections cross 1.1 million-mark in Mena region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,105,213 on 22 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 53.2 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

Iran alone comprises 25.2 per cent of regional cases, while wider Mena nations make up 21.5 per cent of the total.

Of the 1.1 million confirmed cases, 23 per cent, or 255,825 infections, have been confirmed in Saudi Arabia. To date, the kingdom has also reported 207,259 recoveries and 2,557 deaths.

Saudi Arabia has prepared plans for a scaled-back Hajj pilgrimage this year.

Minister of Hajj & Umrah, Muhammad Saleh Benten, said: "Plans include the provision of the best health services and the most appropriate crowd control, strictly in line with the precautionary measures and preventive protocols formulated by the Ministry of Health to ensure full safety of pilgrims from the coronavirus pandemic."

Case numbers are growing in Oman, which has reported 69,887 infections to date, with 46,608 recoveries and 337 deaths.

A country-wide lockdown will be reimposed in Oman for a fortnight from 25 July to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The committee tasked with the oversight of Covid-19 management in the sultanate said: "In view of the increase in the number of people infected with Covid-19 and to limit its spread, the supreme committee on Covid-19 has decided to close all governorates between 25 July and 8 August.

"It has also been decided to prevent all types of movements and close public places and shops during this period between 7pm and 6am, with intensified patrols and points of control in the daytime."

 

21 July: Jordan to reopen airports as Covid-19 cases drop

Countries chart economic recovery plans as Mena Covid-19 tally nears 1.1 million

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,092,858 on 21 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

GCC countries account for 53.3 per cent of all confirmed cases in the Mena region.

With 253,349 confirmed cases, including 203,259 recoveries and 2,523 deaths, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the GCC.

Iran, with 276,202 cases – including 240,087 recoveries and 14,405 deaths – makes up 25.3 per cent of all Mena cases.

Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Algeria together account for 21.4 per cent (233,978 infections) of all confirmed cases in the Mena region.

To date, Egypt has reported 88,402 cases of Covid-19, with 28,924 recoveries and 4,352 deaths.

The Egyptian parliament on 20 July approved a law cutting the net monthly income of all employees in the public and private sectors by 1 per cent to counter the impact of Covid-19. The draft bill excluded employees whose monthly salaries do not exceed £E2,000.

Savings are to be deposited into an account at the Central Bank of Egypt and allocated to support economic sectors and small- and medium-sized enterprises affected by the global pandemic, as well as pay financial subsidies to workers in these sectors.

Jordan, which has among the lowest rates of the new coronavirus infection in the Mena region, outlined economic recovery plans.

The Hashemite kingdom has announced 1,223 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 1,028 recoveries and 11 deaths.

On 20 July, the Jordanian government amended a law to allow employers to reduce the salaries of their employees by 20 per cent instead of the previously approved 30 per cent.

Minister of Labour Nidal al-Batayneh reportedly said salary cuts may only be implemented for employees in the worst pandemic-hit sectors.

Airports in Jordan are also set to reopen next week, Roya News reports.

PM Omar Razzaz said Amman planned to bring back Jordanian expatriates without exposing residents to risks, adding: “The priority will be the return of Jordanian children from abroad.”

 

20 July: Bahrain to extend visit visas amid Covid-19

Manama to extend validity of visit visas for three months to reduce the impact of Covid-19

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,080,609 on 20 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC collectively make up 53.4 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Iran alone accounts for 25.3 per cent of regional Covid-19 cases.

Days after President Hassan Rouhani said that 25 million Iranians may have Covid-19, health authorities clarified that the figure was based on serological blood tests that measure exposure to the illness and that cannot be relied on to show the current state of disease.

Rouhani said on 18 July that 14,000 Iranians may have died due to the illness, based on an “estimated scenario” from a health ministry research report.

Economies in the Mena region have resumed activity as governments seek to restore balance and plug the fiscal losses brought about by the new coronavirus.

Covid-19 recovery rates remain strong in most of the GCC region. Bahrain, for example, has reported 36,422 to date, with 32,372 recoveries and 126 deaths.

On 19 July, the country's Nationality, Passports & Residence Affairs agency said it would extend the validity of all valid and expired visit visas for an additional three months, from 21 July until 21 October 2020.

Visitors who intend to stay in the country beyond 21 October will be allowed to apply through the eVisa portal to renew their visit visas.

 

19 July: Rouhani says 25 million Iranians may have Covid-19

President warns actual case numbers may be higher than reported

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,069,614 on 19 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 53.5 per cent of all confirmed infections in the region, while Iran makes up 25.4 per cent of total cases.

To date, Iran has confirmed 271,606 cases of Covid-19, with 235,300 recoveries and 13,979 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 18 July that more than 25 million Iranians may have contracted the coronavirus and 14,000 may have died due to the illness, based on an “estimated scenario” from a health ministry research report.

"There is the possibility that between 30 and 35 million other people will be at risk," Rouhani added, according to a Reuters report. He did not address the discrepancy between the estimated and actual case numbers.

Restrictions have been reimposed for a week in the capital Tehran, including banning religious and cultural functions, closing boarding schools, cafes, indoor pools, amusement parks and zoos.

From 19 July, 22 cities and towns in the southwestern Khuzestan province will be under a three-day lockdown, Reuters reported.

Wider Mena countries comprise 21.1 per cent of all confirmed infections in the region.

Algeria has confirmed 22,549 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 15,744 recoveries and 1,068 deaths.

On 18 July, the government said it had formed a committee to assess the true economic impact of the pandemic on the Algerian economy.

The health crisis and declining oil prices have led to public sector losses worth about $1bn. Structural crises inherited from the previous government were also blamed for the economic challenges facing Algiers.

 

16 July: Iran eyes remdesivir production as Covid-19 cases rise

Health minister says domestic production of anti-viral drug to begin next week as Tehran museums close again

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,032,927 on 16 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region accounts for 53.6 per cent of all regional infections, with the six Gulf countries reporting a total of 553,989 cases to date.

Of these, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of confirmations, with 240,474 cases, 183,048 recoveries and 2,325 deaths.

Cases are also growing in Oman, where the total number of confirmed infections reached 61,247 on 16 July, from 50,207 as of 9 July.

Oman has reported 39,038 recoveries to date, in addition to 281 deaths due to Covid-19.

The sultanate had recorded 32,005 recoveries and 233 deaths on 9 July.

Iran makes up 25.6 per cent of all confirmed Covid-19 infections in Mena.

The regional epicentre of Covid-19 has, to date, reported 264,561 cases of the coronavirus-caused illness, with 227,561 recoveries and 13,410 deaths.

Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on 15 July that domestic production of the anti-viral agent remdesivir would begin in Iran from next week.

On the same day, museums in Tehran closed again for one week as virus numbers rise amid fears of a second wave of the coronavirus in Iran.

 

15 July: Riyadh eyes loan deferments to spur Covid-19 recovery

Saudi Arabia to defer $178.6m in private sector loans for 2020 as pandemic continues to spread in Mena region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,020,375 on 15 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 53.7 per cent of all Mena cases, with 547,729 infections confirmed to date.

Within the GCC, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of confirmed infections with a tally of 237,803. 

To date, 177,560 recoveries have been recorded in the kingdom, with 2,283 deaths.

On 14 July, the Corporate Sustainability Programme was launched by the Ministry of Finance to support the deferment of loan installments for the private sector. 

Worth SR670m ($178.6m), this deferment covers more than 192 establishments across sectors such as education, health and industry. 

The initiative also aims to support projects in the education, health and real estate development sectors by accelerating approvals and disbursement of loans and easing requirements.

Outside the Gulf, Iran accounts for 25.7 per cent of all cases in Mena, while other regional countries account for 20.6 per cent of all infections.

 

14 July: Covid-19 cases cross one million mark in Mena

Socioeconomic risks and policies prevail as virus numbers continue rapid growth in most regional countries

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 1,007,832 on 14 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

With 541,488 cases, countries in the GCC account for 53.7 per cent of all infections confirmed in the Mena region.

Meanwhile, Iran's 259,652 cases comprise 25.8 per cent of the regional total.

In the GCC, Saudi Arabia has 235,111 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 169,842 recoveries and 2,243 deaths reported to date.

On 13 July, the kingdom's Ministry of Interior said individuals entering Mina, Muzdalifah or Arafat without a permit between 19 July and 2 August, including during Hajj, would be fined SR10,000, with the amount to double if the violation is repeated.

In neighbouring Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa yesterday issued Decree-Law 22/2020 to inject BD177.3m into this year’s state budget to deal with emergency expenditures incurred amid Covid-19.

Also approved was a memorandum recommending the temporary suspension of the deductions of oil revenues allocated to the Future Generations Reserve Fund until the end of the fiscal year 2020, the withdrawal of $450m as a one-time instance from the fund, and approving the issuance of a decree-law disposing part of the fund.

The measures are intended to support the general budget during the remainder of 2020 fiscal year in Bahrain, where 55,198 total cases, including 45,513 recoveries and 334 deaths, have been reported so far.

Countries outside the GCC and Iran account for 20.5 per cent of confirmed cases in the Mena region.

In Morocco, 15,936 cases have been confirmed to date, with 12,934 recoveries and 255 deaths.

Tangier has been locked down and is to be isolated as case figures spike in the northern city, which accounts for roughly 20 per cent of all Moroccan Covid-19 cases.

Financial efforts to contend with Covid-19's impact are under way in Tunisia, where 1,302 cases have been confirmed to date, with 1,082 recoveries and 50 deaths.

Tunisia is negotiating delaying its debt repayments with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France and Italy, and plans to arrange a new deal with the Washington-based IMF in four months.

Its deferral request comes as the Tunisian economy braces for budget deficit to widen to 7 per cent of the GDP, Finance Minister Nizar Yaich said on 13 July.

 
13 July: Covid-19 cases near 995,000-mark in Mena

Iran rules out economic closures as fears persist over second wave of infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 994,448 on 13 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 53.8 per cent of cases in the Mena region, while Iran comprises 25.9 per cent.

To date, Iran has confirmed 257,303 Covid-19 cases, with 219,993 recoveries and 12,829 deaths.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 11 July that the Iranian economy would have to remain open despite the growing number of cases in the country.

“We must ban ceremonies and gatherings all over the country, whether it be wakes, weddings or parties,” Rouhani said.

“Now is not the time for festivals or seminars,” he said, adding that even university entrance exams may have to be suspended.

Within the GCC, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of cases, with 232,259 infections confirmed so far.

The kingdom has also reported 167,138 recoveries and 2,223 deaths to date.

The number of critical cases is reducing in Saudi Arabia, where 50 per cent of patients in intensive care units are over the age of 60.

“According to the graphic analysis, it’s been noted that the rate of patients in critical care units is stabilising in the past two weeks and has seen a slight decrease of 0.4 per cent this week," health ministry spokesperson Mohammed al-Abd al-Ali said.

"The number of patients in critical care units is between 2,000 and 2,500.”

 

12 July: UAE visa rules updated as Dubai pledges $408m

Emirate commits further financial relief as Mena Covid-19 cases cross 981,770-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 981,770 on 12 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 53.8 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

The wider Mena region, excluding Iran, makes up 20.2 per cent of all confirmed cases.

Iran's cases comprise 26 per cent of the total infections in the Mena region.

In the UAE, 54,453 cases have been confirmed to date, with 44,648 recoveries and 331 deaths.

Visa rules were updated in the country over the weekend. A three-month grace period has been announced for GCC passport holders and UAE residents to renew their visa and residency documents.

A one-month grace period was also announced to renew visas from the date of arrival to the UAE for GCC passport holders and UAE residents who have spent less than six months out of the country.

The decision reverses a previously announced move to extend the validity of visas and entry permits for those in the UAE from 1 March until end-December.

On 11 July, the Dubai government announced a stimulus package of AED1.5bn ($408.4m) for sectors including hospitality, construction and education, raising the total value of state relief to AED6.3bn.

Benefits announced for construction include the expediting of payments to contractors and the return of guarantees for activities related to commercial licences.

 

9 July: Moroccan borders to reopen as Covid-19 curbs eased

Air and sea travel permitted from 14 July in Morocco even as Mena's Covid-19 tally goes past 941,000-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 941,425 on 9 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Countries in the GCC account for 53.9 per cent of all Covid-19 cases confirmed in the Mena region to date.

Within the Gulf, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of infections (220,144), followed by Qatar (101,533).

Wider Middle East countries, excluding Iran, account for about 19.7 per cent of all infections confirmed in the Mena region.

Morocco has confirmed 14,771 cases so far, with 11,316 recoveries and 242 deaths.

The country is now preparing to reopen its air and sea borders next week after months of closure to curb Covid-19.

Air and sea borders will open for Moroccan citizens living abroad and foreign citizens living in Morocco on 14 July.

Passengers will be required to present, before boarding, a PCR test conducted less than 48 hours before the trip, as well as a serological test.

Ferry rides will also be scheduled departing from France and Italy, with similar pre-boarding requirements as air travel.

 
8 July: Covid-19 cases cross 927,500-mark in Mena

Restrictions tightened in Libya as Iraq reopens border with Iran for foodstuff trade

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 927,502 on 8 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54 per cent of all regional cases, with 501,216 infections confirmed to date. 

Iran, the regional epicentre of the new coronavirus, has confirmed 245,688 infections so far, making up 26.5 per cent of the Mena total.

The country has reported 207,000 recoveries from Covid-19 and 11,931 deaths.

Wider Mena countries, excluding Iran, account for about 19.5 per cent of all regional cases, with 180,598 confirmed infections.

Egypt has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the wider Mena region, with 77,279 infections, 21,718 recoveries and 3,489 deaths confirmed so far.

Cases are also growing in Iraq and Libya, which are among the regional countries that have low levels of compliance with health precautions to curb Covid-19.

Iraq's southern Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran has been partially reopened for the trade of foodstuff after three months of closure, allowing in some 500 trucks from Iran a week, Arab News reports.

In Libya, the Tripoli-based government yesterday announced an extension of its curfew until 17 July.

A 24-hour weekend curfew and the ban on inter-city movement continue to be enforced as social distancing and the use of masks is ignored by the majority of the population, newspaper Libya Herald reports.

 

7 July: Oman plans national survey to curb Covid-19

Sultanate's nationwide programme comes as Mena case numbers cross 900,000-mark

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 913,864 on 7 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54 per cent of all infections confirmed in Mena, with 494,329 cases reported to date.

Saudi Arabia makes up 213,716 of these cases, with 149,634 recoveries and 1,968 deaths.

On 6 July, the country introduced new guidelines for pilgrims attending Hajj this year.

Entry to the holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat without permits will not be permitted from 19 July until 2 August. 

Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited as well, and the mosque’s carpets are to be removed to allow pilgrims to use their personal prayer rugs instead.

Registrations have also been opened for expat residents in the kingdom to register as pilgrims, the majority of whom (70 per cent) will be non-Saudis this year.

Efforts to curb and understand the spread of Covid-19 are also under way in Oman, which has reported 47,735 cases to date, alongside 29,146 recoveries and 218 deaths.

Earlier this week, the sultanate confirmed its Ministry of Health will conduct a country-wide Covid-19 survey covering locals and expats from 12 July.

The survey will be carried out in four rounds over 10 five-day weeks, with testing to be conducted randomly. 

Survey results will be used to decide when movement restrictions can be eased and all activities can resume. Oman hopes the initiative will also reveal the presence of antibodies in the population. These findings would then help determine the prevalence of Covid-19 and its cumulative infection level in the country.

 

6 June: Dubai tourism to reopen as Covid-19 recovery sought

Mena region has confirmed more than 899,550 infections to date

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 899,554 on 6 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 486,334 confirmed Covid-19 infections to date, while Iran alone has 240,438 cases.

Saudi Arabia accounts for 209,509 cases in the GCC region, with 145,236 recoveries and 1,916 deaths confirmed due to the illness to date.

The kingdom's interior ministry confirmed on 5 July the three-month extension of exit and return visas issued to foreign residents who were either unable to leave the kingdom or to return from abroad because of the closure of borders, and residence permits of expats outside the country whose validity expired during the lockdown.

Final exit visas of foreign residents and the visit visas of foreigners who were unable to leave the kingdom before they expired will also be extended.

Saudi Arabia's decision to extend visas comes as part of its efforts to revitalise economic recovery.

Similar efforts are also under way in the UAE, where starting 7 July, tourists will be permitted to return to Dubai.

Moreover, the UAE government has also been restructured to be more agile in the post-pandemic economy. 

The Ministry of Industry & Advanced Technology will be created as part of the UAE government, and the existing ministries for energy and infrastructure will be merged, it was announced on 5 July.

Three senior ministerial appointments will be made at the Ministry of Economy, and Omar al-Olama, currently the UAE’s minister of state for artificial intelligence, will take on the newly created post of minister of state for digital economy, artificial intelligence and applications for teleworking.

The UAE has confirmed 51,540 Covid-19 cases to date, with 40,297 recoveries and 323 deaths.

 

5 July: Covid-19 cases top 885,600-mark in Mena

UAE notes surge in cases as testing capacity is ramped up amid loosening of restrictions

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 885,590 on 5 July, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54.1 per cent of all confirmed infections in the region.

Case numbers surged in the UAE on 4 July, when 71,000 tests were said to have revealed 716 new cases of Covid-19.

The UAE also confirmed 704 recoveries and three deaths on 4 July, taking the total number of cases to 50,857 with 39,857 recoveries and 321 deaths in total.

The figures are understood to have increased as testing capacity ramps up in the country amid the loosening of restrictions.

Outside the GCC, Iran accounts for 26.9 per cent of all Mena cases.

To date, the country has confirmed 237,878 cases of the new coronavirus, with 198,949 recoveries and 11,408 deaths.

Starting today, wearing masks is mandated in the country as fears of a second wave loom large in Iran.

Iranians who do not wear masks will be denied state services and workplaces that fail to comply with health protocols will be shut for a week. Government employees that do not wear masks will be considered absentees.

 

29 June: Covid-19 cases near 800,000-mark in Mena

Algeria to keep land, sea and air borders closed until Covid-19 crisis is over

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 798,250 on 29 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 433,500 confirmed infections to date, makes up 54.3 per cent of all infections in the Mena region.

Iran has confirmed 222,669 Covid-19 cases to date, making up 27.9 per cent of the Mena total. 

The rest of the Mena region has 142,081 cases, most of which are in Egypt.

To date, Egypt has confirmed 65,188 cases of Covid-19, with 17,539 recoveries and 2,789 deaths.

Neighbouring Libya has confirmed 762 Covid-19 cases with 196 recoveries and 21 deaths, while Algeria has reported 13,273 cases with 9,371 recoveries and 897 deaths.

On 28 June, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said Algeria would keep its land, air and sea borders closed until the end of the Covid-19 crisis.

He added during the cabinet meeting that firmer measures would be taken against citizens who do not respect preventive measures.

 

28 June: Covid-19 cases top 785,000-mark in Mena

Ayatollah Khamenei warns of further economic decline if public flouts precautionary measures

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 784,432 on 28 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 426,138 confirmed infections, accounts for 54.3 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in the Mena region, while Iran makes up 28.1 per cent of all regional cases.

Iran spike

Iran has confirmed 220,180 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 180,661 recoveries and 10,364 deaths.

On 27 June, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the country's economy would worsen if Covid-19 spreads unchecked, and warned the public to avoid negligence.

The Iranian rial has dropped to record lows against the US dollar following the temporary economic closures, border bans and oil export stoppages imposed in the country.

Cases started to grow in Iran in mid-May, before which numbers were contained due to movement restrictions.

 

25 June: Covid-19 cases near 742,000-mark in Mena

IMF downgrades outlook for Saudi Arabia, the Mena's second-worst-hit country for Covid-19 infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 740,873 on 25 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has confirmed 403,163 infections to date, with Iran's tally reaching 212,501.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, has reported 172,096 recoveries and 9,996 deaths due to the illness so far.

Saudi Arabia has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

To date, the kingdom has confirmed 167,267 infections of Covid-19, with 112,797 recoveries and 1,387 deaths.

The Washington-based IMF on 24 June cut the economic forecast for Saudi Arabia during 2020.

The IMF expects the kingdom's GDP to contract by 6.8 per cent instead of its April estimate of 2.3 per cent.

 

24 June: Covid-19 cases top 726,620-mark in Mena

Oman's Sultan Haitham issues orders ratifying emergency interest-free loan for sectors impacted by Covid-19

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 726,618 on 24 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 395,895 confirmed cases of the illness, while the rest of the Mena region, excluding Iran, has 120,753 confirmed cases.

Saudi Arabia accounts for roughly 41.5 per cent of all confirmed cases in the GCC, with 164,144 infections reported to date, alongside 109,885 recoveries and 1,346 deaths.

Qatar accounts for around 22.6 per cent of all GCC cases, followed by the UAE (11.5 per cent), Kuwait (10.4 per cent), Oman (8.2 per cent) and Bahrain (5.8 per cent). 

Oman has confirmed 32,394 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 17,279 recoveries and 140 deaths.

On 23 June, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq issued orders to ratify an emergency interest-free loan for sectors most impacted by Covid-19.

The orders cover male and female entrepreneurs, especially holders of the Riyada card, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), those who work for their own business, and beneficiaries of the Oman Development Bank loans and Al-Raffd Fund.

 

23 June: Covid-19 cases exceed 713,000 in Mena

Saudi Arabia confirms plans to host Hajj as Bahrain rolls out airport biosecurity programme

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 713,172 on 23 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 388,485 cases reported to date, accounts for 54.5 per cent of all infections in the Mena region, while Iran's 207,525 cases make up 29.1 per cent of all regional infections.

Saudi Arabia has the Mena region's second-highest number of Covid-19 cases, with 161,005 cases confirmed to date.

So far, 105,175 recoveries have been reported in Saudi Arabia, with 1,307 deaths due to the illness.

On 22 June, Riyadh confirmed plans to host a limited Hajj gathering in 2020, with only residents of the kingdom permitted to take part. 

The biosecurity risks associated with Covid-19 have also led to improvements at Bahrain International airport, with new protocols launched to ensure passenger safety at the facility.

Bahrain Airport Company says the new safety programme follows guidelines issued by the country's civil aviation authority, and is designed based on standards recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the Bahraini Health Ministry.

The new health guidelines include mandatory face masks and temperature scanning, social distancing measures and limited access to airport areas to ensure biosecurity protocols are being followed.

 

22 June: Covid-19 cases near 700,000-mark in Mena

Further easing of restrictions announced in the UAE as regional countries emerge from lockdowns

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region exceeded 699,085 on 22 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC has 380,791 confirmed infections, while Iran alone has confirmed 204,952 cases to date.

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of cases in the GCC, with the kingdom confirming 157,612 cases to date, with 101,130 recoveries and 1,267 deaths.

The UAE, meanwhile, has confirmed 44,925 cases to date, with 32,415 recoveries and 302 deaths.

Restrictions are being further eased in the UAE. Dubai airports will be permitted to receive tourists from 7 July, provided travellers can present a recent Covid-19 negative test result or undergo testing at the airport.

Residents stranded abroad and holding Dubai-issued visas may start returning from 22 June, and citizens and residents are permitted to travel abroad from 23 June, provided the country they are travelling to has agreed to receive them.

 

21 June: Covid-19 cases cross 686,700-mark in Mena

Case numbers cross 200,000-mark in Iran and 154,200-mark in Saudi Arabia as kingdom resumes activity today

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 686,701 on 21 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 374,296 confirmed cases, accounts for 54.5 per cent of all infections in the Mena region, while Iran alone accounts for 29.5 per cent.

The number of confirmed cases in Iran reached 202,584 on 21 June, with 161,384 recoveries and 9,507 deaths.

Iran may make it mandatory to wear masks in public places and covered spaces, President Hassan Rouhani said according to Reuters.

Provinces in Iran will be allowed to decide the level of restrictions they impose, Hossein Erfani, head of the Health Ministry’s contagious disease care department, reportedly said on 19 June.

Case numbers also grew in Saudi Arabia over the weekend to reach 154,233, with 98,917 recoveries and 1,230 deaths.

Saudi Arabia will resume economic activities today, with domestic flights allowed to operate and mosques in Mecca reopened. 

However, international flights, travel through sea and land points, and Umrah pilgrimage and visits to holy sites remain suspended.

 

18 June: Covid-19 cases cross 645,000-mark in Mena

Restrictions set to ease in the UAE as more activities resume and travel is allowed from 23 June

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 645,318 on 18 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54.4 per cent of all Mena infections, with 351,345 cases confirmed in the six GCC states to date.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the virus, has confirmed 195,051 cases so far, accounting for 30.2 per cent of all confirmed cases in the Mena region.

Restrictions are being eased across parts of the Mena region where case numbers are declining.

The most notable relaxation of rules is being rolled out in the UAE, where test figures have crossed the 3 million-mark. 

Adults up to the age of 70 can now enter malls in the country, but the lower age limit of children under 12 is still in force for emirates other than Dubai.

Home care services will also resume in Dubai, and public libraries, private museums and art galleries will reopen.

Abu Dhabi’s cultural sites will reopen from 24 June, and next week will also see the relaxation of travel bans in the country.

From 23 June, citizens and residents in the UAE can travel to certain countries. Destinations have been divided into three categories: low-risk (no restrictions), medium risk (travel for specific purposes) and high-risk countries (no travel).

People over 70 years of age will not be allowed to travel and those with chronic diseases are advised to avoid travelling. International medical insurance covering the destination country is necessary for all travellers.

Individuals must also follow 14-day quarantine measures upon their return. The UAE government said this period could decrease to seven days for travellers arriving from countries with lower risk, or for professionals in critical sectors.

 

17 June: Mena has more than 631,350 Covid-19 cases

GCC cases account for 54.4 per cent of all confirmed Mena infections

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 631,352 on 17 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54.4 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region, while Iran makes up 30.5 per cent of all regional cases.

Saudi Arabia has confirmed 136,315 Covid-19 cases to date, with 89,540 recoveries and 1,052 deaths.

On 16 June, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund launched an SR3.7bn ($1bn) stimulus package to support more than 500 small- and medium-sized industrial companies affected by Covid-19.

The fund will offer the deferral and restructuring of loan payments and lines-of-credit to partly finance operating expenses for up to three months.

Funding has also been made available to wider Mena region countries by the World Bank.

The Washington-headquartered institution confirmed a $400m loan to help Egypt revamp its healthcare infrastructure.

The World Bank has also approved the disbursement of $175m to support anti-coronavirus efforts in Tunisia as part of the Emergency Development Policy Operation.

 

16 June: Covid-19 cases top 618,000 in Mena

Bahrain takes further step to reduce economic strain with BD177m budget for emergency expenses

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 617,965 on 16 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region has confirmed 335,528 infections to date, accounting for 54 per cent of the regional total.

Iran, with 189,876 confirmed cases, makes up 31 per cent of all Covid-19 infections in the Mena region.

Outside Iran and the GCC, Syria (177 cases), Libya (467 cases), Yemen (844 cases) and Jordan (979 cases) have the lowest number of reported Covid-19 infections to date.

In the GCC, Bahrain has the fewest confirmed infections. To date, the country has confirmed 19,013 Covid-19 cases, with 13,267 recoveries and 46 deaths.

Bahrain's Ministerial Committee for Financial & Economic Affairs & Fiscal Balance has been asked to review studies and initiatives submitted by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Bahraini Businessmen's Association on the sectors that have been affected by Covid-19.

On 15 June, the Bahraini cabinet also endorsed, based on a recommendation by the Government Executive Committee, a draft decree on including BD177m in the general state budget for 2020 for emergency expenses required during Covid-19.

 

15 June: Covid-19 cases cross 600,000-mark in Mena

Saudi Arabia warns infection rate could grow if health precautions are not obeyed

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 603,873 on 15 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 54.2 per cent of all infections in the Mena region, and Iran makes up 31 per cent of all confirmed cases.

Saudi Arabia reported 4,233 new cases of Covid-19 on 14 June, taking its total tally to 127,541. Of the total number, 41,849 are active cases, of which 1,855 are critical.

Additionally, 2,172 new recoveries and 40 deaths were announced on 14 June, raising total recoveries and deaths in Saudi Arabia to 84,720 and 972 respectively.

Saudi Arabia’s R0 infection rate is between 1.5 and 2.

An R0 of 1 indicates that each infection in the population will cause at least one new case.

The Saudi health ministry's spokesperson Mohammed al-Abd al-Aly said the rate could further increase if health precautions are not adhered to.

He added: “The infection rate decreased to below 1 in May, but it increased in recent days, which indicates the virus is spreading due to mixing with Covid-19-infected individuals."

 

14 June: Covid-19 cases near 600,000-mark in Mena

Regional epicentre Iran may reimpose restrictions if existing precautionary measures are flouted

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 590,139 on 14 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the new coronavirus, accounts for 31.3 per cent of all cases in the Mena region.

The country has confirmed 184,955 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 146,748 recoveries and 8,730 deaths due to the illness.

President Hassan Rouhani said on 13 June that restrictions could be reimposed in the country if existing precautionary regulations are not followed.

The GCC, with 318,970 confirmed infections, accounts for 54 per cent of all Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

The majority of these cases are from Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed 123,308 cases so far, with 82,548 recoveries and 932 deaths.

Saudi Arabia's health ministry has launched a campaign to ensure residents are complying with social distancing measures.

Reports also emerged over the weekend that the kingdom may cancel the Hajj pilgrimage to curb the spread of Covid-19.

If implemented, the decision would mark the first time that Hajj has been cancelled since Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932.

 

11 June: Mena has 550,356 Covid-19 cases

Infection numbers approach 300,000-mark in the GCC as Iran spike continues

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 550,356 on 11 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

Iran, with 177,938 cases, makes up 32 per cent of all confirmed Covid-19 infections in Mena.

The GCC region, with 295,300 cases, accounts for 54 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia has the GCC's highest number of confirmed Covid-19 infections, totalling 112,288, with 77,954 recoveries and 819 deaths.

Seventy-seven additional mosques are to open in the Al-Jouf region to ensure social distancing between worshipers and help avoid crowding in the province's mosques.

 

10 June: Mena has 537,600 cases of Covid-19

Iran accounts for 32.7 per cent of all cases confirmed to date in the Mena region

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 537,595 on 10 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region, with 287,423 cases confirmed to date, accounts for 53.5 per cent of all infections confirmed in the Mena region.

Iran, the regional epicentre of the illness, accounts for 32.7 per cent of all cases confirmed to date in the Mena region.

So far, 175,927 cases have been confirmed in Iran, with 138,457 recoveries and 8,425 deaths reported by the country.

Saudi Arabia has the second-highest number of Covid-19 cases in the Mena region.

To date, the kingdom has confirmed 108,571 cases of the illness, with 76,339 recoveries and 783 deaths reported as of 10 June.

Qatar, the third worst-hit country for Covid-19 in the Mena region, has 71,879 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 47,569 recoveries and 62 deaths to date.

 

9 June: Covid-19 cases top 525,800-mark in Mena

Phased reopening programmes continue as GCC case numbers reach 280,230

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 525,794 on 9 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC region, with 280,230 cases, accounts for 53.3 per cent of all confirmed infections in the Mena region.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have among the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the GCC.

To date, Saudi Arabia has confirmed 105,283 cases of Covid-19, with 74,524 recoveries and 746 deaths.

Qatar, meanwhile, has confirmed 70,158 cases with 45,935 recoveries and 57 deaths.

Doha has reportedly developed a four-phased programme to lift all restrictions in its cities, starting 15 June.

Mosques will reopen on the day, UAE newspaper the National reported. Phases 2, 3 and 4 of easing restrictions will begin on 1 July, 1 August and 1 September respectively.

Restaurants will partially reopen under Phase 2, and flights will resume from low-risk countries, as well as malls will reopen with limited capacity, under the third phase.

The final phase will lift restrictions on gatherings such as weddings, and allow the reopening of cinemas.

 

8 June: Mena region has 513,726 Covid-19 cases

Confirmed infection numbers cross 100,000-mark in Saudi Arabia

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 513,726 on 8 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC, with 273,005 confirmed cases to date, accounts for 53.1 per cent of all infections in the Mena region.

Confirmed case numbers crossed the 100,000-mark in Saudi Arabia on 7 June.

To date, the kingdom has confirmed 101,914 Covid-19 cases, with 72,817 recoveries and 712 deaths.

A temporary hospital was opened at Jeddah International Exhibition and Convention Centre on 7 June. 

The hospital comprises 20 beds initially, with a capacity of 500 beds.

Thirty-one clinics for individuals with Covid-19 symptoms have also opened in Riyadh, Mecca, Medina, Jeddah, Al-Qassim and Al-Ahsa.

 

7 June: Covid-19 cases cross 500,000-mark in Mena

Regional efforts made to contend with pandemic-related economic challenges

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region crossed 501,265 on 7 June, according to Worldometers data collated by MEED.

The GCC accounts for 53 per cent of all regional cases with 256,862 infections confirmed to date.

Case numbers in Saudi Arabia are approaching the 100,000-mark.

The kingdom has confirmed 98,869 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 71,791 recoveries and 676 deaths.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior re-imposed a two-week curfew in Jeddah after reviewing the epidemiological situation and the high occupancy rates of the intensive care departments in the city.

Efforts have also been made regionally in the past week to reduce the financial strain of Covid-19. The Washington-based IMF said on 5 June it had agreed on a financial package worth $5.2bn to help Egypt contend with the economic impact of the pandemic.

On the same day, regional lender Arab Monetary Fund agreed to provide loans of $211m to Morocco and $98m to Tunisia to help the North African countries deal with the coronavirus crisis.

 

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.

 

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 Dubai.

 

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 confirmed.

 

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. 

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. 

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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