Covid-19 in the Middle East: a New Year update

New Covid-19 infections recorded in the Middle East and North Africa, 1 March–31 December 2020. Daily average, week by week

New Covid-19 infections in the Middle East and North Africa averaged just under 28,000 a day during December, bringing the total since the pandemic began to almost five million, according to official figures.

Across the region as a whole, this represents a modest fall in new cases compared with November, which was the worst month so far.

The list below shows the daily average of new cases reported during December by each of the 20 countries monitored:

The overall month-on-month fall is mainly accounted for by fewer new cases in Iran, Jordan, Morocco and Iraq, as can be seen from the list below. At the same time, though, Israel, Palestine and Egypt reported significant increases and there are signs that Egypt is entering a second wave.

The list below gives some indication of the scale of the epidemic in invidual countries, in relation to their population:

However, the number of confirmed cases is also partly determined by levels of testing. It’s easier in small countries to test a high proportion of the population. Thus while tiny Bahrain appears to be the most infected country in the region, it is unlikely to have many undetected cases. The number of tests carried out in Bahrain exceeds the number of people (due to repeat testing).

In countries with low levels of testing, on the other hand, the situation may be a lot worse than the official figures suggest because many infections go undetected. In Yemen, for example, testing is almost non-existent.

Overall, death rates in the region appear (as recorded in official figures) appear relatively low. To some extent, that is to be expected because of the demographics: Arab countries tend to have a high proportion of young people who are less likely to die from the virus. In most of them, though, it’s also unclear what criteria are being used for attributing deaths to Covid-19. In some countries (see Iraq and Yemen, for example) there is resistance to recording deaths as due to Covid-19 because of social stigma.

The graphs below show the average number of daily new infections recorded in each country, week by week since the beginning of March 2020. The underlying data can be found in this spreadsheet. For more packground and analysis see: Diary of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Middle East.

For more information see: Covid-19 in Algeria

For more information see: Covid-19 in Bahrain

For more information see: Covid-19 in Egypt

For more information see: Covid-19 in Iraq

For more information see: Covid-19 in Israel

For more information see: Covid-19 in Jordan

For more information see: Covid-19 in Kuwait

For more information see: Covid-19 in Lebanon

For more information see: Covid-19 in Libya

For more information see: Covid-19 in Morocco

For more information see: Covid-19 in Oman

For more information see: Covid-19 in Palestine

For more information see: Covid-19 in Qatar

For more information see: Covid-19 in Saudi Arabia

For more information see: Covid-19 in Sudan

For more information see: Covid-19 in Syria

For more information see: Covid-19 in Tunisia

For more information see: Covid-19 in the UAE

For more information see: Covid-19 in Yemen

Originally published at https://al-bab.com.

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: www.al-bab.com. Author of 'Arabs Without God'.

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