March 13, 2020
Healthcare systems in the Middle East are unequally prepared to tackle such a health crisis. Countries that have tackled the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-coronavirus) the best in 2012-2013 are also those that cope the best with Covid-19 today. These are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Jordan is also a safe haven in the region with only 1 case reported. Qatar has however faced a boom in the cases confirmed during the last two days, after having been relatively spared.
Most countries have decided to suspend traveling from and to a list of destinations, mostly the most impacted ones but also for political reasons. Most governments have also closed schools and universities and suspended international events.
Variation in figures is compared with March 9.
Iran – 10,075 cases (+41% since March 9) / 429 deaths (+81%)*
Second most impacted country after China, Iran also has one of the highest lethality rates at 3.5%. The number of fatalities rises two-fold every 2.5 days while the number of cases rises 15% per day (compared with 40% per day two weeks ago). Hospitals are overwhelmed.
Most cases are located in the Tehran province and the holy city of Qom. The government has initially turned a blind eye to the epidemic, and refused to quarantine Qom, where the pilgrimage has accelerated the propagation. Authorities have started taking steps early March, by implementing checkpoints at the entrance of many cities and forbidding the entrance in the 17 main ones. On March 5, schools, universities, museums, sport centers, cinemas and theaters have also been closed.
In defiance, people in the North of the country have threatened to close roads.
70,000 prisoners have been authorized to serve their sentences at home.
On March 8, Iran Air suspends all of its flights to Europe.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei canceled his annual Persian New Year speech in Mashhad and asked Iranians to stay home on this occasion.
44 persons have died after drinking adulterated alcohol, thinking it would protect them against the virus.
A counselor of Ayatollah Khamenei as well as two members of parliament have died and at least 23 other members of the parliament, the vice-president and the Health Secretary of State are infected.
Qatar – 262 cases (+1356% since March 9) / 0 deaths
Flights from 15 destinations have been suspended: Italy, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria and Thailand.
The government decided to close schools and universities from March 10.
Bahrain – 197 cases (+81% since March 9) / 0 deaths
The Formula One Grand Prix will take place without spectators.
Israel – 131 cases (+236% since March 9) / 0 deaths
Those include 13 Americans in Bethlehem, and Bethlehem has been quarantined.
On March 4, the borders were closed for all foreign nationals from France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Austria, at the exception of those residing in Israel. The country had already taken restrictive steps against travelers from Italy and Asia. The land border with Egypt was also closed.
On March 8, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that they are considering measures requiring anyone arriving in the country to go into home quarantine for 14 days.
UAE – 85 cases (+89% since March 9) / 0 deaths
Only two of them are in intensive care.
All schools and universities have been closed from March 8 to at least the end of the month.
The Health ministry said over 620 school buildings and 6,000 buses were sterilized and students already started taking distance class.
The UAE cycling Tour being a major international event in the country, 26 hotel visitors, 56 athletes and 236 hotel staff have been quarantined on March 7.
Etihad airline suspended flights to and from the KSA in response to KSA having also suspended all flights to and from the UAE.
Sports activities have been suspended for people under 18 years old.
Irak – 83 cases (+28% since March 9) / 8 deaths (+33%)
Irak has closed its border with Iran after around 40 individuals have been identified as being infected, most of them coming from Iran, and three of them died on March 5.
The government announced on March 10 the closure of the Chia Najaf province for a week for non-residents.
Flights with India and Lebanon have been suspended.
Egypt – 80 cases (+45% since March 9) / 2 death (+100%)
The first death was a 60-year-old German tourist. On March 8, Egyptian crew and foreign passengers of a Nile cruise ship with 45 suspected cases disembarked in Luxor. 11 have been tested negative, but the 45 would still be quarantined.
The government purchased 250,000 virus detectors.
Kuweit – 80 cases (+25% since March 9) / 0 deaths
Flights from and to 7 destinations have been canceled on March 8: India, Bangladesh, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.
The Central Bank set up a USD 33 million fund to fight the virus.
Lebanon – 68 cases (+112% since March 9) / 3 deaths
The popular mobilisation against the political class’ corruption now targets more specifically the Ministry of Health. Most of the cases identified are located in the South of Lebanon, where more people have links with Iran.
The Ministry of Tourism has decided to close nightclubs and bars at least until March 15.
All judicial hearings and sport events have been suspended at least until the end of March, and schools and universities have also been closed.
The Middle-East Airline (MAE) has announced the suspension of flights from and to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
On March 11, the government decided to close all bars and restaurants and to suspend flights from Iran, Italy, China and South Korea. Lebanese citizens and residents in Lebanon as well as diplomats have until March 16 included to return from France, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom before travel is banned from those locations. This decision is effective until March 23rd at least.
On March 12, employees of Rafic Hariri University Hospital, the leading medical center set up to combat coronavirus in the country, started an open-ended strike protesting the non-payment of their salaries and poor working conditions.
The government also decided to increase the internet connexion of Ogero subscribers for free to encourage people to work from home.
Saudi Arabia – 62 cases (+313% since March 9) / 0 deaths
All cases are based in the Eastern province of Qatif. The Chia province, which has ties with Iran, has been quarantined.
When a first case was reported on March 2, coming from Iran, the government decided to suspend the Omra, the pilgrimage to the Mecca and Medina. Mosques in these two holy cities have been closed for disinfection.
Travelers coming from Italy, Iran, China and South Korea are not allowed to enter the Kingdom. Land borders with the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait have been closed for commercial trucks, and only three airports in the country will allow international arrivals.
On March 9, all air and maritime links from and to 10 countries are suspended: the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Irak, South Korea and Italy.
Meanwhile, the Kaaba esplanade in Mecca has been partially re-opened, but touching the Kaaba is forbidden.
All education and Quranic activities in the Kingdom’s mosques have been suspended, while all schools and universities have been closed. Distance teaching is promoted.
Sinking demand has resulted in a 21% drop of oil price.
Palestine – 31 cases (+63% since March 9) / 0 deaths
On March 5, the Palestinian Authority decided to close the Nativity church in Bethlehem, after cases were reported in the city, probably because of greek tourists.
Gaza being blocked, this territory seems to be spared until now.
Oman – 19 cases (+6% since March 9) / 0 deaths
All international conferences and events are postponed.