Latest on coronavirus impact on Middle East

02 April 2020

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Dubai's Knowledge and 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. 

Case growth since 1 March, excluding Iran [source: MEED].

In Saudi Arabia, where 1,720 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed to date, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development allocated SAR17bn ($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, inaugurates SAR500m community fund to contend with Covid-19’s effects.

Case growth since 1 March, including Iran [source: MEED].

The fund includes contributions of SAR100m from the awqaf authority and SAR50m from the labour ministry. 

Saudi Electricity Company contributed SAR30m and the company’s contractors and suppliers and other partners add SAR24.65m 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.

Covid-19 in the Mena region 

(2 April 2020)

COUNTRYLATEST UPDATES

Saudi Arabia               

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 1,720
  • Recoveries: 264
  • Deaths: 16

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 15 March: Non-essential spaces, including malls and restaurants, closed
  • 20 March: Interior Ministry suspends domestic flights, trains, buses and taxis
  • 22 March: Three-week curfew ordered by King Salman
  • 25 March: Riyadh says King Salman to chair extraordinary virtual summit of G20 leaders on 26 March to advance response to Covid-19
  • 28 March: Interior Ministry extends suspension of flights and domestic travel, and work in public and private sectors
  • 29 March: Suspension of flights and work in the public and private sectors extended indefinitely and Jeddah sealed off
  • 29 March: Municipalities carry out road sterilisation and disinfection works, and movement permits introduced for travel within Saudi Arabia’s provinces in exceptional circumstances
  • 31 March: Hajj and Umrah minister Muhammad Salih bin Taher Banten urges pilgrims and foreign governments to wait for more clarity on planned pilgrimage in late-July
  • 1 April: Ministry of Health issues shopping guidelines

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 14 March: Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (Sama) pledges SR50bn package for private sector growth
  • 20 MarchFinance Ministry commits SAR70bn for economic growth
  • 22 March: Expat levy waived for work permits expiring on 20 March-30 June, and tax payments deferred
  • 28 March: Saudi Arabian banks donate SR155.1m ($41.3m) to Health Endowment Fund to combat the spread of Covid-19
  • 26 March: Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority orders licensed payment services providers to raise the allowed top-up of the monthly ceiling limit for e-wallets to SAR20,000
  • 26 March: King Salman chairs G20 extraordinary summit to contend with Covid-19’s economic impact
  • 29 March: Sama approves new round of economic support initiatives, including the provision of finance for individuals who have been made redundant in the private sector, fee exemptions in some cases, reassessing credit card interest rates and refunding forex transfer fees for those affected by travel plan cancellations 
  • 29 March: Education Ministry to continue disbursement of financial allocations, medical insurance and treatment allowance over the next three months for Saudi scholars and their companions, including those who have been suspended from disbursement, or whose scholarships have ended, residing outside the kingdom
  • 30 March: King Salman orders free Covid-19 treatment in government and private hospitals for citizens and residents, including those in violation of residency laws
  • 31 March: Makkah governor Prince Khalid al-Faisal launches Barran bi Makkah campaign to support families and small businesses affected by Covid-19 containment measures
  • 1 April: Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development has allocated SAR17bn ($4.5bn) to deal with the economic and jobs fall-out from Covid-19, with measures including fee exemptions for expat workers whose residency permits (iqama) expire before 30 June, and disallowing forced unpaid leave without employees’ consent
  • 1 April: Ahmad bin Suleiman Al-Rajihi, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development and chairman of the General Authority of Awqaf, inaugurates SAR500m community fund to contend with Covid-19’s effects, including SAR100m from the awqaf authority and SAR50m from the labour ministry
  • 1 April: Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) contributes SAR30m and the company’s contractors and suppliers and other partners add SAR24.65m to support the Health Endowment Fund
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
UAE

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 814
  • Recoveries: 61
  • Deaths: 8

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
  • 21-23 March: Malls, food markets and restaurants closed
  • 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
  • 26 March: UAE Government announces automatic renewal of work permits and visas and exemption from medical tests for workers
  • 26 March: Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation limits private sector companies’ in-office workforce to 30 per cent as Federal Authority For Government Human Resources announces remote working for all public sector organisations from 29 March
  • 28 March: Interior Ministry extends National Disinfection Programme and accompanying movement restrictions till 4 April
  • 28 March: Department of Health – Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Health Services Co (Seha) launch drive-through screening for Covid-19
  • 29 March: UAE Attorney-General issues updated resolution on enforcement of list of fines, penalties ranging AED1,000-50,000 to curb the spread
  • 29 March: Metro, tram and marine taxi services’ suspension extended until 5 April, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority says, and Sharjah extends suspension of all activities until end of April
  • 30 March: Dubai recommends delaying Expo 2020 by a year, with the decision to be confirmed following a vote of member states of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE)
  • 30 March: Physical attendance in schools and universities cancelled and distance learning to continue until the end of the 2019-20 academic year, education ministry announces
  • 30 March: Dubai’s RTA announces two weeks of free parking to encourage people to stay home
  • 30 March: Dubai’s high-density Al-Ras neighbourhood locked off for two weeks to curb the spread of Covid-19
  • 1 April: Ministry of Interior suspends federal and local permits, and online vehicle applications, for outdoor movement during the daily disinfection programme

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:   

  • 12 March: Dubai announces AED1.5bn stimulus package
  • 14 March: Central Bank pledges AED100bn to economic growth
  • 16 March: Abu Dhabi introduces AED5bn stimulus package 
  • 17 MarchAldar announces financial support initiatives
  • 17 MarchDubai Holding and Meraas announce economic relief
  • 22 March: UAE cabinet approves additional AED16bn to support infrastructure projects
  • 22 MarchDubai banks offer financial relief measures
  • 26 March: UAE cabinet agrees to form national committee to study Covid-19’s negative economic impact as local stimulus packages total AED126.5bn
  • 26 March: Central Bank directs banks to replenish ATMs with new banknotes to ensure cash availability during the latest payment cycle 
  • 26 March: Nakheel announces AED230m relief package and Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) announces discounts and fee waivers from 1 April to 30 June
  • 28 March: Dubai Free Zones Council launches economic stimulus package
  • 30 March: Mohre issues national programme to support private sector labour market   
  • 30 March: Cabinet approves extension of residence permits expiring on 1 March 2020 for a renewable period of three months without additional renewal fees; waives administrative fines associated with services provided by the Federal Authority of Identity and Citizenship; agrees to provide a temporary licence for a scheme on digital transaction management of Notary Public services; and approves the extension of government services expiring from 1 March for a renewable period of three months, starting 1 April.
  • 30 March: SS Lootah Group subsidiary Lootah BCGas and Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry announce AED15m package supporting 50,000 residential and 500 commercial customers
  • 31 March: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, establishes disease control centre in the emirate and reveals government support for Emirates Airlines
  • 31 March: Abu Dhabi’s Group 42 and Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) launch Masdar City laboratory built in 14 days to speed up testing for Covid-19
  • 1 April: Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development and Abu Dhabi Global Market pledge corporate support to ease economic impact of Covid-19, and Abu Dhabi Health Services dedicates Al Ain Hospital to treat Covid-19 patients
  • 1 April: Dubai Economy launches daily price tracker for staple food and essentials to curb price manipulation 
  • 1 April: Dubai's Knowledge and Human Development Authority and the Sharjah Private Education Authority order schools to issue fee refunds
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Bahrain

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 569
  • Recoveries: 337
  • Deaths: 4

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 25 February: Private and public schools, universities and nurseries suspended
  • 13 March: F1 Grand Prix Bahrain called off
  • 22 March: National taskforce bans public gatherings of more than five individuals
  • 22 March: Retail stores closed from 26 March to 9 April except to make deliveries 
  • 22 March: Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre converted to Covid-19 testing facility
  • 23 March: Friday and communal prayers at all mosques and prayer areas indefinitely suspended
  • 24 March: Forex firms ordered to sterilise banknotes
  • 26 March: Interior Ministry bans public gatherings exceeding 5 people
  • 29 March: Health and interior ministries conduct field visits to Manama-Bab Al-Bahrain, Durrat Al Bahrain and areas alongside the Budaiya highway to collect random medical samples and raise awareness to prevent Covid-19
  • 31 March: Civil Defence-trained cleaning companies start disinfection operations in Bahraini governorates 

Measures to minimise the economic crisis:  

  • 17 March: Manama announces $11.4bn stimulus package
  • 18 March: Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry calls to find import alternatives
  • 22 March: Commerce ministry launches virtual trading after Bahrain Bourse closes floor to public
  • 23 March: Bahrain Association of Banks tells local banks to expedite stimulus package decisions
  • 29 March: Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa directs foreign affairs and education ministries to repatriate Bahraini students, and orders commerce ministry to control prices of essential commodities and “combat monopolistic practices”
  • 30 March: National Health Regulatory Authority starts issuing licences to private hospitals for the provision of medical care for asymptomatic patients of Covid-19 that would like to receive treatment from a private hospital. CEO Mariam Adhbi al-Jalahma says private hospitals are also licensed to oversee quarantine facilities, but citizens, residents and visitors in Bahrain are still entitled to free treatment at the health ministry’s centres.
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Kuwait

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 317
  • Recoveries: 80
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 11 March: Public holiday announced to curb coronavirus' spread
  • 13 March: All passenger and non-cargo flights grounded indefinitely
  • 13 March: Mosques, public parks and beaches closed, and mass transportation halted
  • 19 March: School and university closures extended till 4 August
  • 20 March: Partial daily curfew imposed and public holiday extended for two weeks after 26 March 
  • 28 March: Kuwait Municipality shuts down cafés at shopping malls, fuel stations and any other locations in the country
  • 29 March: Interior ministry launches digital barcodes to clamp down on misuse of movement permit cards during curfew hours
  • 29 March: Kuwait Fire Service Directorate starts home deliveries of medicine to contain outdoor movement
  • 1 April: Cabinet closes car workshops and reduces worker numbers at consumer cooperative society outlets to curb Covid-19

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 12 March: Central bank says it is ready to provide cash to commercial banks if required
  • 12 March: Kuwait suspends fees on point of sales devices and ATM withdrawals, increases limit for contactless payments to KD25 from KD10 and pledges to provide “financial and moral compensation” to banking sector employees during the public holiday
  • 17 March: KD500m authorised for ministries and state entities 
  • 18 March: Authorities initiate action against individuals "spreading rumours" about Covid-19 in Kuwait
  • 26 March: Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah instructs Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences to allocate KD10m ($30.3m) for an emergency response program to mitigate the fall-out from Covid-19
  • 29 March: Ministry of Social Affairs says 41 Kuwaiti charities have raised KD10m ($30m) to support the government’s anti-coronavirus efforts 
  • 30 March: Education and higher education minister approves proposal to allow fast-tracking the exams of final-year medical students to enable them register as doctors and join anti-coronavirus efforts
  • 1 April: Kuwait announces new round of economic relief measures, including soft long-term loans from local banks and loan repayment delays for companies affected by the Covid-19 crisis. The cabinet has also directed government agencies to pay private sector companies as soon as possible, and waived selected payment obligations for private firms.
  • 1 April: Kuwaiti Amir donates KD5m to recently launched Covid-19 fund on behalf of the al-Sabah family
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Oman

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 210
  • Recoveries: 34
  • Deaths: 1

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 18 March: Teleconferencing programmes legalised to encourage remote work, and land allotments postponed by government
  • 19 March: Oman advises tourists to depart and halts all public transportation
  • 22 March: Public gatherings banned, staff at government office reduced and foreign exchange bureaus closed in the sultanate
  • 22 March: Newspaper distribution banned temporarily
  • 24 March: All international flights to be suspended from 29 March 
  • 27 March: Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries closes fish markets in North al-Batinah, South al-Batinah and South Sharqiyah until further notice
  • 27 March: Muscat Municipality shuts Seeb fish market and Muttrah fresh produce markets
  • 29 March: National disinfection campaign kicks off
  • 29 March: Research Council opens applications for submitting pre-proposals for clinical and non-clinical projects addressing the Covid-19 pandemic
  • 30 March: Ministry of Commerce and Industry issues precautionary measures for factory workers in industrial establishments, with work to be done remotely by administrative staff, accountants and coordinators, and a part of their offices to be converted into quarters for employees
  • 31 March: Sultan’s Armed Forces and the Royal Oman Police to activate check points for the movements of citizens and residents between the entires and exits of all the governorates from 1 April
  • 1 April: Muttrah locked out to curb spread of coronavirus
  • 1 April: Muscat Municipality waives parking fees to encourage people to stay at home and uses drones to disinfect public facilities

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 18 March: Central bank launches OMR8bn stimulus package to buoy economy
  • 19 March: Muscat approves five per cent budget cuts in ministries and state entities
  • 19 March: Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council approves financial allocations for food reserves and for Al Raffd Fund to support SME lending
  • 26 March: Sultan Haitham bin Tariq donates RO10m to national Covid-19 fund 
  • 26 March: Ministry of Health says 2,816 rooms in 40 hotels to be converted into Covid-19 relief and quarantine centres
  • 29 March: Majlis al-Shura Office reiterates the importance of non-reduction of salaries of private sector workers during the quarantine period in Oman
  • 30 March: Ministry of Finance issues new circular to all government companies on rationalisation of 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.
  • 31 March: Supreme Committee on Covid-19 exempts government employees from visiting their workplace in non-vital sectors, and calls on heads of government units and private sector companies to ensure that the core business is not affected by reduced employee numbers
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Qatar

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 835
  • Recoveries: 71
  • Deaths: 2

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 9 March: Schools and universities closed in Qatar 
  • 15 March: Public transport suspended by government
  • 17 March: Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs closes mosques and prayer facilities 
  • 18 March: Incoming passenger flights to Doha suspended for non-Qataris for renewable two weeks
  • 21 March: Public parks and beaches closed to curb spread of Covid-19

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 15 March: Doha commits QR75bn to private sector incentives. The government says state funds will be told to increase their investment in the local bourse by QR10bn and the central bank will provide additional liquidity to banks. Commercial banks will be encouraged to provide a six-month grace period on loan payments and private sector obligations.
  • 30 March: Qatari Health Ministry orders private health care institutions to halt non-emergency services, including dentistry, dermatology, cosmetic surgery and operations except for critical cases
  • 1 April: Hamad International airport reduces number of onsite food and beverage, retail and ground staff by 40 per cent, with most working remotely or sent on annual leave
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Iran

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 47,592
  • Recoveries: 15,473
  • Deaths: 3,036

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 22 February: Concerts and cultural events were cancelled, and schools, universities and sporting events suspended until April
  • 2 March: Government mobilises volunteers and carries out street disinfection works
  • 5 March: Domestic travel discouraged and Health Minister urges population to avoid banknotes
  • 9-17 March: At least 85,000 prisoners released to limit spread of Covid-19 within jails
  • 13 March: Revolutionary Guards planned to clear streets, shops and public places around the country as Iranian Chamber of Commerce in northern China sends masks and sanitary items to Iran
  • 20 March: Shopping centres, bazaars and all religious sites closed
  • 24 March: Rouhani says government offices to be run in shifts with one-third of workforce at a time until 3 April, announces extension of prisoner furlough until 1 April and asks TV companies to promote delivery companies for free. Government calls to shut workplaces and cancel gatherings until 3 April and postpone weddings and funerals
  • 26 March: Inter-city travel ban imposed as residents flout curfew during Nowruz holiday
  • 29 March: Iran extends prison furloughs until 19 April as coronavirus death toll rise
  • 30 March: Health ministry spokesperson Kianush Jahanpur says Iran considering tougher curbs on movement to reduce spread of coronavirus

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 12 March: Iran requests $5bn in emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund for the first time since 1962
  • 13 March: Economy Ministry appeals to World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Opec Fund for International Development for financial aid and non-cash support
  • 14 March: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urges unnamed global leaders to help lift US sanctions
  • 22 March: Plan and Budget Organisation provides $845m to Health Ministry for prevention efforts
  • 24 March: Hossein Mir Shojaian Hosseini, Iranian representative to World Bank, slams the authority for not inviting the republic to a Mena-focused meeting on Covid-19 containment
  • 26 March: Rouhani says government seeking approval to withdraw $1bn from Iran’s sovereign wealth fund to contend with Covid-19
  • 28 March: Rouhani says Iran to allocate 20 per cent of its annual state budget to fighting the Covid-19 outbreak and orders state health insurance to cover 90 per cent of coronavirus-linked costs of patients. The IRR1tn budgetary allocation includes grants and low-interest loans.
  • 31 March: UN calls to lift sanctions on Iran during coronavirus crisis as Europe sends medical goods to Tehran
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Egypt

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 779
  • Recoveries: 179
  • Deaths: 52

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 March: Decision announced to close mosques and churches for two weeks as confirmed case numbers pass 294
  • 21 March: Supreme Council of Antiquities says to close and sterilise archaeological sites in Luxor on 23-31 March
  • 24 March: Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announces daily curfew between 7pm and 6am for 15 days from 25 March. Shops will be closed between 5pm and 6am every day, and on Fridays and Saturdays. Restaurants, cafes, and entertainment venues, as well as non-healthcare civil services departments to also be closed as confirmed cases reach 366
  • 24 March: Air travel suspension extended for two weeks as Egypt says “all options on table” to avoid entering third stage of pandemic’s spread
  • 28 March: Egypt’s shores in Alexandria and Damietta, and Mediterranean Sea and South Sinai beaches to be closed
  • 29 March: Hospitals shut for sterilisation and villages quarantined to curb spread of Covid-19
  • 30 March: Egyptian Armed Forces sterilise the commercial areas of Old Cairo and Downtown, and tourism ministry resumes extensive sterilisation works
  • 1 April: Seven buildings with about 150 employees quarantined and sterilised in Port Said after new cases emerge

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 14 March: President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi announces EGP100bn allocation to deal with Covid-19
  • 19 March: Planning Minister mulls EGP30bn package to support local industry as National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr commit EGP3bn to buoy coronavirus-hit Egyptian Exchange
  • 22 March: El-Sisi says EGP100bn package includes EGP50bn for tourism and to help hotels continue operations, EGP20bn for the national bourse and EGP27.6bn in direct disbursements for 10 million citizens
  • 26 March: Egypt’s growth rate target reduced to 5.1 per cent in 2020-21 from 5.6 per cent in 2019-20, Planning Minister Hala el-Saeed says
  • 28 March: Cabinet denies claims that Egypt would raise the salaries of government employees, pay private sector salaries and issue tax exemptions, while also dismissing reports about cutting down the price of oil products, increasing the amount of subsidised foodstuff and granting holidays to public and private sector employees
  • 29 March: Central Bank of Egypt imposes temporary daily limit for withdrawals and cash deposits in bank branches to curb inflationary behaviours. Daily limits for deposits and cash withdrawals set at E£10,000 for individuals and E£50,000 for companies. ATM withdrawal limits set at E£5,000
  • 30 March: Sisi calls to increase doctors’ allowance and orders the manufacturing of ventilators to prevent importations
  • 30 March: Trade ministry said to delay debt instalments of small businesses for at least three months to mitigate financial risk
  • 31 March: Egypt reportedly excludes soap bars, shampoo, tissue papers and some crops and legumes from resolution banning export of essentials such as face masks
  • 1 April: Investments in health sector planned to grow by 69 per cent to £E15.3bn in 2020-21, el-Saeed says according to Egypt Today
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Iraq

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 728
  • Recoveries: 182
  • Deaths: 52

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 February: Border with Iran, the regional hotspot of Covid-19, closed amid criticism that the move was long-delayed
  • 27 February: Schools, universities and cinemas in Baghdad closed, and large public gatherings, including those of religious nature, banned across the country
  • 7 March: Non-citizen travellers from France and Spain, except foreign diplomats, were banned from entering Iraq, and Baghdad issued a decree banning overland trade with Kuwait and Iran on 8-15 March  
  • 10 March: State-run Basra Oil Company reduces and amends staff shifts, and curbs employee travel, to protect oil output against Covid-19 
  • 12 March: One day after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic, Health Minister Jaafar Allawi says Iraq needs $150m per month to purchase equipment and materials to fight the virus, with the Finance Ministry accepting donations from banks, government and private institutions.
  • 13 March: Three-day curfew announced in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah
  • 14-15 March: Wasit governorate locked down and three-day curfew imposed in Karbala as national flights suspended from Baghdad airport from 17-24 March
  • 18 March: Schools and universities in Baghdad closed for 10 days
  • 26 March: Iraq extends nationwide curfew until 11 April

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 25 February: Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Minerals backs factory producing 30,000 face masks per day for sale to citizens at discounted prices
  • 14 March: Kurdistan Regional Government’s spokesperson Mohammed Khoshnaw reportedly says “significant medical support” had yet to be provided to Iraq, adding that international support will be needed if cases increase
  • 23 March: President Barham Salih urges people to stay home to reduce burden on vulnerable healthcare infrastructure
  • 28 March: Arshad al-Salhi, head of the Iraqi parliamentary Human Rights Committee, says government must draft plan to distribute foodstuff and avoid a famine in the country
  • 31 March: Allawi thanks China for building lab and donating equipment to test for Covid-19
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Jordan

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 278
  • Recoveries: 36
  • Deaths: 5

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 2 March: Jordan’s first Covid-19 case was announced, and the central government followed up by encouraging self-isolation among citizens
  • 14 March: Prime Minister Omar Razzaz says flights to be grounded from 17 March, and schools, universities, tourist sites, sports events and cinemas to be suspended for at least two weeks 
  • 18 March: Jordanian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Majd Shawaika says 1,900 people who came into the country are being quarantined in Dead Sea resorts and another 3,000 are placed in resorts and hotels in Amman
  • 20 March: Jordan signals start of indefinite curfew at 7am by air-raid sirens sounding across capital city Amman after the decision to impose the curfew – which covers all businesses, including supermarkets and pharmacies – was announced at 4pm the previous day
  • 22 March: Deliveries of cooking gas and water are permitted by the government 
  • 24 March: Government starts trial runs of home deliveries for medicines, fuel and foodstuff to the country’s population of 10 million 
  • 24 March: Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Hala Zawati says cooking gas distribution agencies and vehicles are exempted from curfew as demand for gas cylinders grew amid unusually cold weather conditions
  • 26 March: Army seals off Irbid city after wedding causes coronavirus spike
  • 29 March: Razzaz extends suspension of normal working hours at public sector offices for two weeks to 15 April
  • 29 March: Minister of State for Prime Minister Affairs Sami Al-Dawood says movement permits to be introduced before the end of the week. Labour Minister Nidal Bataineh says private sector employers will be permitted to visit their offices for payroll operations, adding: “There are complaints that show […] employers have arbitrarily fired workers, and there are those who forced their employees to sign illegal pledges. We will protect the worker and prevent these practices."
  • 30 March: Minister of State for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh extends closure of state institutions until mid-April
  • 30 March: Health ministry announces new safe shopping measures, with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army and Public Security Directorate urge banks to practice social distancing
  • 31 March: All-day lockdown involving the closure of previously exempted commercial stores and establishments and a ban on people’s movement across the kingdom will begin on the night of 1 April, Minister of State for Media Affairs Amjad Adaileh said according to Jordan Times

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 26 February: Amman Chamber of Commerce ramps up trade precautionary measures and calls to find alternative markets as Chinese output declines
  • 15 March: Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) cuts compulsory reserves for commercial banks to 5 per cent from 7 per cent, adding more than JD500m ($705m) of extra liquidity in the market
  • 15 March: CBJ governor Zaid Fariz tells Reuters commercial banks have been asked to delay payments of loan instalments by companies and to allow the rescheduling of retail loans without penalties to support private sector and individual borrowers
  • 16 March: CBJ reduces main policy rate to 2.5 per cent from 3.5 per cent
  • 29 March: Razzaz and his government team reportedly donate salaries for this month to Jordan’s general budget to support the state treasury, especially the health ministry
  • 31 March: Razzaz establishes national fund for Covid-19 donations
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Lebanon

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 479
  • Recoveries: 43
  • Deaths: 14

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 28 February: Education Minister Tarek al-Majzoub announces closure of all educational institutions from 29 February to 8 March
  • 6 March: School and university closures extended till 14 March, and gyms, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs closed
  • 9 March: Lebanese parliament and ministry offices closed for one week
  • 11-12 March: Restaurants and malls closed in Lebanon
  • 15 March: President Michel Aoun declares state of medical emergency as country issues decree to close borders with Syria for the first time in about 40 years. 
  • 15 March: Beirut International airport closed and 15-day lockdown announced, excluding bakeries, pharmacies, food stores, banks and health institutions. Churches cancel Sunday prayers and Islamic authorities suspend Friday prayers for the next two weeks
  • 21 March: Prime Minister Hassan Diab reportedly deploys “the army, Internal Security, General Security and State Security” bodies to enforce social distancing rules  
  • 26 March: Overnight shutdown from 7pm to 5am planned with some exceptions to be announced later, Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad says
  • 26 March: Lebanese shutdown extended by two weeks to 12 April
  • 30 March: Saudi newspaper Arab News reports Lebanese lockdown may be extended by another fortnight to prevent Covid-19’s spread
  • 31 March: Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad says system established to allow overseas Lebanese to return home even as country remains in lockdown until 12 April

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 22 February: Economy minister Raoul Neama bans export of devices, equipment, or medical personal protective equipment until further notice
  • 26 February: Head of Lebanese parliament’s health committee, Assem Araji, says WHO supported establishment of Rafic Hariri University Hospital’s quarantine centre and will help set up similar units in Beirut
  • 20 March: Finance minister Ghazi Wazni reportedly says Beirut is studying financial restructuring cases to salvage its crisis hit banks, weeks after Lebanon defaulted on a foreign debt payment for the first time on 9 March
  • 20 March: Select commercial banks cut access to dollars for depositors, with some customers compelled to withdraw Lebanese pounds “at a pegged rate roughly 40 per cent weaker than on the parallel market, effectively slashing their dollar savings,” Reuters reports
  • 23 March: Lebanon says it will stop paying dollar-denominated eurobonds “to protect the reserve from foreign currencies […] and in view of the increasing pressure to access foreign currencies”
  • 24 March: Association of Banks announces decision to provide $6m for medical equipment
  • 26 March: Government to distribute 100,000 food and hygiene packages worth LBP18bn to needy families. Lebanese MP Issam Araji, who heads the Lebanese parliament’s Public Health, Labour and Social Affairs Committee, tells UAE newspaper the National that “the government does not have enough cash money in dollars to buy PCR machines [for testing] and ventilators”
  • 30 March: Fady Gemayel, head of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, says cleaning supplies, disinfectants and food provided to 30 prisons in the country
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Morocco

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 654
  • Recoveries: 29
  • Deaths: 39

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

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

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 10 March: Morocco’s economic growth expected to be revised downwards to near 2 per cent for 2020 from an initial forecast of 3.5 per cent due to drought slashing agricultural output and fewer tourists due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ahmed Lahlimi, head of Morocco’s planning agency (HCP), tells Reuters
  • 16 March: Moroccan King Mohammed VI orders establishment of MD10bn fund to rehabilitate the health sector and support vulnerable economic sectors impacted by Covid-19, such as tourism
  • 27 March: Government to spend an initial MD2bn to buy 1,000 intensive care beds, 550 ventilators and 100,000 testing kits, as well as medicine and other equipment, finance ministry reportedly says
  • 27 March: MD1bn allocated for special fund that also includes private donations to contend with Covid-19 and cover stipends worth MD800-1,200 for every head of household working in the informal sector whose activity was impacted by the lockdown to contain the virus
  • 29 March: Bank al-Maghrib to allow banks to resort to all available refinancing means in Moroccan dirhams or hard currencies, extends refinancing deadlines and enhances SME programme by merging operational and investment loans to support local business community
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Libya

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 10
  • Recoveries: 1
  • Deaths: 0

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 14 March: Tripoli government reportedly closes schools for two weeks; suspends all public gatherings and events and shuts restaurants, cafés and mosques; and announces closure of Libya’s land, sea and air borders for three weeks from 16 March
  • 22 March: Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj, prime minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya declares country-wide curfew (6pm to 6am) for all non-vital sectors as health ministry announces plan to build a quarantine centre at Mitiga airport 
  • 24 March: UN-backed Tripoli government announces first confirmed Covid-19 case in the country 
  • 30 March: At least 466 prisoners reportedly freed to curb the spread of Covid-19

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 3 March: Export subsidy adviser at economy ministry says Chinese imports to Libya will be reduced as Covid-19 spreads (source: Libya Observer)
  • 14 March: Al-Sarraj government in Tripoli declares state of medical emergency and allots LYD500m for anti-coronavirus measures
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Tunisia

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 423
  • Recoveries: 5
  • Deaths: 12

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 4 March: Health Minister Abdelatif el-Mekki says Tunisia to ferry transport services and allocates separate air terminal for flights from northern Italy after confirming first Covid-19 case on 2 March 
  • 13 March: Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh says government to suspend prayers in mosques, close cafés at 4pm every day, and ban all cultural, sports and economic gatherings after national maritime borders were closed 
  • 27 March: 150 Tunisians self-isolate in Consomed factory in Tunis to make face masks
  • 29 March: Interior ministry reportedly using unmanned robots to curb spread of Covid-19 and enforce curfew restrictions
  • 31 March: Tunisia extends lockdown by two weeks to 19 April as 1,420 prisoners released to curb Covid-19

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 15 March: Ministry of Finance asks citizens for donations to help tackle coronavirus
  • 17 March: Tunisian central bank cuts its key interest rate by 100 basis points and government reduces growth forecast for 2020 from 2.7 per cent to 1 per cent
  • 22 March: Fakhfakh unveils TND2.5bn package to delay tax debts, postpone taxes on small- and medium-sized businesses, delay repayment of low-income employee loans and provide financial assistance to poor families
  • 28 March: EU grants Tunisia $279.2m to contend with Covid-19 after IMF plans to disburse $400m to help the country face the effects of the crisis
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Algeria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 847
  • Recoveries: 61
  • Deaths: 58

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 10 March: Government issues a ban on spectators at sports events, and on political, social and cultural gatherings
  • 12 March: President Abdelmadjid Tebboune orders schools and universities to close 
  • 15 March: Algeria’s state carrier Air Algerie to suspend all flights to and from France from 17 March
  • 16 March: Algeria to suspend all air and sea travel with Europe and Africa, Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad says 
  • 20 March: Anti-government protests called off for the first time in a year  
  • 20 March: Government to suspend public transport, close cafes and restaurants, tell half its state employees to stay home and order security forces to tighten the bar on public gatherings, Reuters reports
  • 23 March: Presidency says Algeria will impose a curfew in the capital Algiers from 7pm-7am and a full lockdown in the town of Blida, which has Algeria’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, for 10 days from 24 March
  • 27 March: Night curfew imposed in nine additional provinces to limit the spread of the coronavirus
  • 31 March: President Tebboune urges citizens to be “disciplined” and to follow the ongoing night curfew in 10 provinces and a full lockdown in the Bilda area
  • 1 April: President Tebboune extends school and university closures

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 22 March: Government allocates DZD12.3bn to import pharmaceutical products and equipment 
  • 29 March: Algeria has enough food to meet its needs for the next few months despite, trade minister says
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Yemen

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

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

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 19 February: Yemen says its citizens studying in China were evacuated by the UAE and are being quarantined 
  • 14 March: Yemeni Cabinet cancels flights to and from the country’s airports for two weeks, and orders school closures for one week 
  • 17 March: Sports events suspended and judiciary suspends activity in the courts
  • 23 March: Saudi Arabia airlifts critical WHO to Yemen, including personal protective items for health workers, and trauma medication and supplies as Yemeni government reportedly suspends schools and universities until 30 May
  • 24 March: WHO’s representative in Yemen Altaf Musani tells Arab News the organisation is “scaling up preparedness and response efforts in the event a case is confirmed” as 500 Covid-19 testing kits are delivered to Sanaa and Aden
  • 30 March: UN calls to release prisoners to avert “nationwide coronavirus outbreak”
  • 1 April: More than 470 inmates freed to contain coronavirus, UAE newspaper the National reports

Measures to minimise the economic crisis: 

  • 23 March: Yemeni planning minister Najib al-Aweg says the World Bank and the International Finance Cooperation have allocated $26.7m to help Yemen tackle Covid-19
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
Syria

Covid-19 pandemic latest:

  • Total confirmed cases: 10
  • Recoveries: 0
  • Deaths: 1

Actions to slow the spread of Covid-19:

  • 20 March: Damascus says scientific, cultural, social and sporting events will be halted, and public institutions will be closed or staffed at 40 per cent of normal levels and operate during reduced hours
  • 21 March: Education Minister Imad al-Azab says schools to be closed until 2 April, and government delays 13 April parliamentary elections to 20 May as Friday prayers at mosques are suspended till 4 April
  • 22 March: Public transport banned after closure of parks and restaurants, government plans to deliver bread to homes after closing bakeries and President Bashar al-Assad issues prisoner amnesty. Damascus International airport closed to commercial traffic and newspapers cease print editions
  • 25 March: Daily curfew between 6pm and 6am takes effect following interior ministry’s orders
  • 29 March: Ban on commuting between provinces and all other urban and rural areas takes effect

Financial measures to minimise the economic crisis:

  • 27 March: UAE offers to support Syria amid Covid-19 outbreak. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces tells Syrian President Bashar Al Assad that Syria “will not be left alone during these delicate and critical circumstances”.
As of 11.30 GST, 2 April 2020
1 April: Region's Covid-19 cases keep growing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 March: Mena Covid-19 cases spur tighter curbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 March: UAE contractors given more time and cashflow boost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 March: UAE hospitals get wireless authorisations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

25 March 2020: Middle East Covid-19 numbers grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 March 2020: GCC ramps up Covid-19 response

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

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

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

Saudi Arabia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kuwait

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bahrain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oman

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

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

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

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

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

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

UAE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Middle East update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 March 2020: Travel bans intensify amid pandemic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kuwait closures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regional spread grows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


More on the impact of coronavirus

 

A MEED Subscription...

Subscribe or upgrade your current MEED.com package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.

Get Notifications