While the number of new cases of COVID-19 continues to increase worldwide, particularly in Latin America and the United States, the spread of the virus seems to be rather curbed in the Middle East, a trend that rewards the drastic health measures taken by some states in the region, although fears of a “second wave” remain strong.
Less cases in Saudi Arabia
With 1,795 cases and 27 deaths recorded on 29 July, as opposed to the peak of the pandemic – 4,919 new cases and 39 deaths on 17 June – the Saudi state confirms the drop in activity of the virus on its territory. It must be said that the kingdom, particularly affected by the health crisis, with 274,219 cases for 2,842 deaths, has multiplied measures to limit the spread of the virus: lockdown, curfews, mandatory masks in public, suspended prayers in mosques… Even the hajj has been limited this year, with only 1,000 to 10,000 pilgrims selected among residents in the kingdom to make the great pilgrimage to Mecca. As a reminder, by 2019, 2.5 million Muslims had come to the Holy City to perform this ritual, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Fear of a resurgence in the UAE
While the number of new COVID-19 contaminations in the United Arab Emirates has dropped significantly in recent weeks, the country has registered a slight increase in the number of new cases this week (375 on 29 July compared to 211 on 19 July). Despite the health measures still in force in the country, the authorities fear a resumption of the epidemic, especially during this period of aid holidays as the increase in internal flights has raised fears that the population’s vigilance may be waning.
Iraq struggles to curb the pandemic
Already the second largest outbreak of the virus in the Arab world with more than 121,000 confirmed cases and 4,671 deaths, Iraq recorded on Thursday a new record number of new cases on its soil with 2,968 contaminations. The country appears to be overwhelmed by the scale of the pandemic, recording oxygen shortages in several hospitals. With a health system on the verge of collapse combined with a dizzying drop in oil prices, Iraq is inevitably facing a major economic and social crisis.