Americans need to understand the Middle East
How much do we really know?

At The Media Line, we value all points of view and aim to mend our differences through fact-based narrative-inclusive journalism Help support our bold and brave team in Afghanistan, Gaza, Israel, Palestinian Territories, the UAE, and beyond.
Help us continue our work and provide access to the news that matters to you.

Thank you and best wishes to you and yours for this Jewish New Year.
Felice Friedson
Founder, President
Arab Countries That Started Off Strong Against Pandemic Struggle Today
Dr. Mohamed Salah Siala, 25, plays violin for his COVID-19 patients during their treatment process for boosting the morale of coronavirus sufferers who remained isolated and needed a smile, at Hedi Chaker Hospital in Sfax, Tunisia on March 02, 2021. (Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Arab Countries That Started Off Strong Against Pandemic Struggle Today

Hospitals in Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan packed far beyond capacity

On Monday, Jordan broke its record for new coronavirus cases at 9,417 in one day as Reuters reported that the country’s largest cemetery is struggling to keep pace with the necessary burials. In Tunisia and Morocco, COVID-19 infections are on an upward trajectory as well.

Dr. Yasmina Abouzzohour, in a piece published this week by the Brookings Institution, details how the three countries’ efforts to combat the pandemic fell from grace, from initially effective responses to having hospitals overflowing.

During the six months starting last March, Jordan regularly had fewer than 10 and Tunisia fewer than 20 new daily COVID-19 infections per million people, while Morocco was always below 40 new infections in the same ratio, Abouzzohour writes. She attributes these outcomes to strict health regulations with many closures.

As they opened up more of their economies, the virus cases spiked and the number of hospital patients soared.

Abouzzohour, a visiting fellow at Brookings Doha Center, does not attribute the deterioration to any particular error on the part of the three governments.

“I would not say that these countries made mistakes or that they ‘lost control over the public health sector.’ It is important to remember that, overall, the MENA region has had a more successful experience controlling the outbreak by global comparison. This is especially true of Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco when considering case and fatality rates,” she told The Media Line.

“Now it is true that they are currently struggling with increased cases, especially Jordan which is also facing protests. The factors that resulted in these surges are yet to be definitively determined,” she continued.

However, “higher cases loads are likely linked to reopened borders and relaxed measures, while higher death tolls may be attributed to the pandemic stretching these countries’ public health sectors beyond capacity,” Abouzzohour said.

As the trio of initially successful COVID-controlling countries all face an insecure vaccine supply, the visiting fellow said the governments must take decisive action now before the situation deteriorates further.

“Decision-makers must therefore not only reimpose restrictions but, importantly, invest heavily in their healthcare systems, specifically in medical personnel, equipment, space, specialized units,” Abouzzohour said.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 8 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.

CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Palestinian Territories232,0382,521205,28924,228
Saudi Arabia386,7826,630375,8314,321
United Arab Emirates448,6371,466431,77315,398


Steven Ganot contributed to this report.


Give the Gift of Trusted News!

Dear friends,

The Media Line is always there to report to you the stories and issues of the Middle East – completely and in context: TML is the source you can trust.

Know The Media Line to Know The Middle East!

Please support our ad-free, nonprofit news agency. Our seasoned journalists reporting from the Middle East are working day and night during these challenging, yet defining times; and our student interns are honing their knowledge and skills, preparing to emerge as tomorrow’s journalists.

You rely on us and we’re relying on you! Make your online tax-deductible donation here and contact us regarding donations through appreciated stock, donor advised funds, qualifying IRA distributions and other charitable instruments.

Thank you for confidence in The Media Line.
Felice Friedson
Founder, President

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.