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WHO East Med Region ‘Reaching Critical Point’ for Coronavirus

WHO East Med Region ‘Reaching Critical Point’ for Coronavirus

The organization fears case surges in Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Morocco

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the total number of COVID-19 cases in its Eastern Mediterranean Region is more than 11.4 million, with over 223,000 fatalities.

“We are reaching a critical point for COVID-19 in our region,” Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said in a press statement released midweek. “Countries are reintroducing or strengthening social and travel restrictions, but at this stage, increasing complacency by communities means that the virus is winning in the region.”

“It is not too late to turn the course of this pandemic, but it requires much more exerted global, regional and national efforts,” he added.

The WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean does not include all Eastern Mediterranean nations and covers a number of African and Asian countries far from the Mediterranean Sea. Its members include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The WHO fears a surge in cases in Libya, Tunisia, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Morocco despite a general decrease in coronavirus infections over the last two months due to variants, large swaths of people going unvaccinated, and lax observance of safety protocols.

In Tunisia and Libya, for example, the percentage of the populations that have been inoculated for the vaccine is only 6% and 5.6%, respectively.

In Iraq, less than 1% of the population has received one dose. The country suffered a tragedy on July 13 when at least 92 people died in the COVID isolation ward of Nasiriyah’s Al-Hussein Teaching Hospital.

Still, the WHO fears the coronavirus situation will worsen as a result of the weeklong Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, commencing on the evening of July 19.

According to the organization, Iran attributes its monthlong jump in new cases to nonobservance of social distancing measures during the March holiday of Nowuz, which marks the Iranian new year.

When it comes to variants, the elusive alpha and delta are two strains that have contributed to Morocco expanding the scope of its state of emergency order until August 10.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told reporters on July 12 that over the course of a week, the number of coronavirus cases attributed to the delta variant increased from 284 to 750.

In other COVID-19 vaccination news, AFP reported that Amman would receive 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the US.

According to The National, 500,000 doses of an unnamed coronavirus vaccine arrived in Tunisia. The country’s oxygen and intensive care slots are at 90% and 95% capacity, respectively, according to the WHO.

Last Friday, Qatar dispatched a field hospital to Tunisia, along with 200 medics and 100 respirators, according to Doha News. Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi visited the hospital on July 13. It is planned to be installed in the Tunis suburb of Ben Arous.

This is the second time that Doha has sent a field hospital during the pandemic.

The WHO said that Tunisia had the worst COVID-19 death rate in all of Africa.

In Israel, Salman Zarka became Israel’s coronavirus “czar” July 14, replacing Prof. Nachman Ash, who is now the director-general of the Health Ministry.

Here are the latest COVID-19 numbers for the Middle East and North Africa as of 5 pm Greenwich Mean Time (UTC±0) on Thursday.


CountryConfirmed CasesDeathsRecoveredActive Cases
Palestinian Territories315,4093,585310,2391,585
Saudi Arabia506,1258,035486,91811,172
United Arab Emirates656,3541,885634,27220,197


Steven Ganot contributed to this report.

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