Map of the COVID-19 outbreak as of 10 April 2020. (Creative Commons)

Coronavirus Mideast Roundup

The latest COVID-19 information and statistics for the Middle East and North Africa

Besides Iran and Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has not been hit as hard by the coronavirus outbreak as have Europe and the United States.

The MENA region – minus Iran’s 77,995 cases and Turkey’s 74,193 – currently is home to 53,621 infections, according to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine coronavirus tracker. That is less than the US, with a world-leading 671,425 infections, and individual EU countries in second and third place – Spain with 184,948 cases and Italy with 168,941.

“In general, the impact of COVID-19 seems to be less than in Europe or North America, and the reasons are complex and variable,” Dr. Heitham T. Hassoun, vice president and medical director at Cedars-Sinai International in Los Angeles, told The Media Line via email.

The low rates of infection in the MENA region, according to Hassoun, could be explained by how globally connected countries have taken effective measures to curb the pandemic, while more isolated nations such as Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt have mostly been able to avoid outside infections from crossing their borders, which could possibly be keeping their COVID-19 numbers down.

“Resource-rich countries like the UAE [United Arab Emirates] have been able to apply significant resources such as broad testing, physical distancing and case-tracking in order to flatten the curve,” said Hassoun. “Obviously, this is having a significant impact in a country that is highly connected to the rest of the world and could otherwise be devastated by the virus.”

But with Iran a major part of the region, are the low numbers sustainable?

Alireza Nader, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an Iran expert, has been tracking the outbreak in the Islamic Republic since it began. He told The Media Line in a phone interview that the virus had already been spreading beyond Iran’s borders to Iraq and Lebanon, and as far afield as Canada and New York.

“There’s a lot of popular resentment [in Lebanon] against the regime in Iran… because a lot of Lebanese blame Iran for spreading the virus to their country,” said Nader.

The regime stayed mum about the coronavirus because it did not want to suppress the turnout for parliamentary elections, he said. This allowed the virus to spread within Iran and to other countries.

Nader said that Iran was still allowing Mahan Air to fly to and from China. The company is believed to operate under the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“There is a great danger that [the COVID-19 epidemic] will keep going and there will be renewed outbreaks,” he said. “It’s really problematic in terms of regional and global security because if all these other countries are taking measures to contain COVID and Iran isn’t doing anything, it’s going to become a huge problem in handling the pandemic on a global scale.”

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of Friday morning at 10 am (GMT+3).

 

CountryConfirmed casesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Afghanistan8403054756
Algeria2,2683487831,137
Bahrain1,7007703990
Cyprus7351277646
Djibouti591273516
Egypt2,6731965961,881
Iran77,9954,86952,22920,897
Iraq1,43480856498
Israel12,7581422,8189,798
Jordan4027259136
Kuwait1,52432251,296
Lebanon6632186556
Libya4911137
Mauritania7124
Morocco2,2831302491,904
Oman1,0195176838
Pakistan7,0251351,7655,125
Palestinian Territories374263309
Qatar4,10374153,681
Saudi Arabia6,380839905,307
Somalia805273
Sudan325423
Syria332526
Tunisia8223743742
Turkey74,1931,6437,08965,461
United Arab Emirates5,825351,0954,695
Yemen1001
Total205,8097,80870,668127,333

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