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Delta Variant Wreaks Havoc on Middle East

The World Bank reported this week that it had expended over $4.75 billion in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region for the 2021 fiscal year, which concluded at the end of June.

Some $3.98 billion went to second world countries and $658 million was dispensed to the most destitute nations in the region in novel expenditures. An additional $114 million were earmarked for the Palestinian Authority. In addition to health systems strengthening, the bank also responded to requests for support for COVID-19 vaccines.

“The pandemic has put the region’s already strained resilience to the test and has taken a devastating toll on people across MENA. It has also heightened the urgency for decision-makers to undertake further reforms to address long-standing development challenges in their countries,” Ferid Belhaj, World Bank vice president for MENA, said in a statement.

In terms of COVID-19, the World Bank spent $34 million to provide coronavirus vaccines for citizens of and refugees in Lebanon. The organization dispersed $100 million to Tunisia, $63.5 million to Jordan, and $20 million to Yemen for vaccine doses.

The World Bank’s announcement comes as the coronavirus ravishes some countries in the region, which is seeing the even more rapid spread of the delta variant of the virus.

Beginning on August 1, Saudi Arabia will require residents to demonstrate they have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine before being granted entry to public spaces through a mobile app, the Wall Street Journal reported. Eight days after the start of the month, citizens will not be allowed to leave the country unless they have had the full set of coronavirus inoculations.

Kuwait also will not allow its citizens to venture overseas until they have received both jabs of the coronavirus vaccine from August 1, excluding minors under the age of 16.

On July 29, Omani authorities indefinitely extended the country’s nightly six-hour lockdown from 10 p.m. as it tries to curb the number of new infections.

Reuters reported that the number of new cases in Turkey on July 28 had swelled to over 22,000, the most it has seen in nearly three months. In Lebanon, The Daily Star reported over 1,500 new COVID-19 cases for July 27, its highest tally in almost four months.

Iraq reached a record daily high number of new cases on July 26, with over 12,000.

In neighboring Iran, the country worst hit by the pandemic in the MENA region, the highest number of new cases ever was recorded on July 26 with 31,814, surpassed the next day with 34,951 new cases.

In response, Qatar sent nearly 20,000 pounds worth of medical supplies to the Islamic Republic on July 28, DohaNews reported.

Meanwhile, an expert committee at the Ministry of Health of Israel officially approved the recommendation of giving a third booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine to Israeli citizens above the age of 60, as new infections continue to rise.

Despite the variant, not all countries are struggling to contain the outbreak of COVID-19. The Egyptian Independent, citing figures from The Egyptian Health and Population Ministry, recorded the fewest number of new cases since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2021 on July 27 with 31.


Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 1 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday:


CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Palestinian Territories316,4873,601311,7141,172
Saudi Arabia522,1088,200502,52811,380
United Arab Emirates677,8011,939655,18320,679


Steven Ganot contributed to this report.