The Impact of Coronavirus on Arab Countries: The Latest Updates
By: Ani Karapetyan/Arab America Contributing Writer
Coronavirus (COVID-19), first detected in December in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, continues to spread in countries around the world affecting more people and causing more deaths. According to the World Health Organization, the global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has surpassed 100 000, as of March 7. The epidemic has spread to 101 countries. Coronavirus continues escalating in Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa as well. Arab countries with coronavirus cases canceled or postponed conferences, sports events, different forums, and other large initiatives.
The following is the latest impacts of the Coronavirus disease on Arab countries:
The United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, a major business and tourism center, closes all schools for a month. Most events are canceled. Some sports, such as horse racing and soccer, are still in the schedule but no fans are allowed to attend. The UAE authorities canceled the Wizz Air press conference in Abu Dhabi.
Saudi Arabia suspended the travel to and from 14 countries including Germany, France, Spain. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has closed its land borders with the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain, with an exception for commercial trucks, and is only permitting flights from those countries to three of its airports. Coronavirus affected Saudi Arabia’s oil market as well. Saudi Aramco’s shares dropped by 10 percent.
The situation is no better in Kuwait. As of March 10, the total number of coronavirus cases reached 69. The Kuwaiti government closed cinemas, theaters, wedding halls. The closure of schools and universities is extended until March 26. Boursa Kuwait shut down within 30 minutes of opening as stocks again dropped by 10 percent.
As of March 9, the total number of people infected with the virus in Bahrain is 95. After Iran, Bahrain has now the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Middle East. Experts say that Bahrain’s tourism sector is going to suffer severely. The Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix is scheduled for March 22. However, the fans are not allowed to attend the event because of the risk of coronavirus. The virus here too caused the closure of schools and universities. In addition, Bahrain announced a travel ban from Iran.
According to Oman’s state news agency (ONA), Oman has canceled all events at the Royal Opera House in the capital Muscat that had been scheduled for March and April.
Started from Tuesday, Qatari authorities suspended schools and universities in addition to banning travel from 14 countries.
Iraq will close Najaf province on Wednesday. Najaf, with its numerous Shia holy sites, is a very important region for Shia Muslims. Every year millions of Shia pilgrims visit this region from all over the world. Hence Najaf has great importance for Iraq and its closure is going to be the main blow to the country’s economy. Schools and universities have been canceled in the country, and shopping centers have been closed. Public meetings were also banned. However, with all these measures, it seems that Iraq is the only country where the government is unable to control the situation. Iraqi people are not satisfied with the measures the government takes to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Baghdad with a demand to provide them with assistance in the fight against the COVID-19.
In Palestine, the authorities announced a state of emergency after new coronavirus cases were discovered in the city of Bethlehem. Instead of crowds of tourists and pilgrims, now the streets of Bethlehem are quite and its hotels are empty.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has taken similar steps as other Middle Eastern countries with coronavirus cases. The country banned travel to Lebanon, Syria, and closed its seaports to Egypt. Additionally, on Monday, Jordan is banning travel to several European countries. However, unlike other Middle Eastern countries, it is not going to suspend schools yet.
Lebanon recorded its first death from coronavirus on Tuesday. Most of the public places are closed in Lebanon in addition to schools and universities.
In Egypt, a patient infected with the Covid-2019 coronavirus died on Sunday, which was the first death from this disease in Africa. Also, Egypt announces 45 possible cases of virus infection on a cruise ship on the Nile. Experts say the influx of tourists in Egypt may stop soon.
Morocco and Algeria
Following Egypt, Morocco confirmed the first death from coronavirus. The country canceled all flights from and to Italy. Algeria canceled all sports, cultural, political, and economic gatherings.
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