Covid-19 in the Middle East: situation report for week ending 3 October


New Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa over the last six months. Seven-day rolling average, day by day.


Algeria’s outbreak peaked towards the end of July when more than 600 new infections were being recorded each day. Since then the trend has been downwards, with new cases averaging 156 a day during the past week according to official figures.


New cases reached a peak in mid-September but the numbers have been declining since then. This week’s average was 516 new cases a day.


According to the Egyptian authorities, new infections this week averaged 120 a day compared with almost 1,600 a day at the peak in June. The official figures are surprisingly low considering Egypt’s large population (103 million) and the often crowded living conditions.

  • Hotels and other businesses in the tourism industry will not have to pay electricity, water or gas bills until December 31.
  • Debts owed by companies in the tourism sector will be rescheduled, with no payments due until January 1.
  • Discounted airport fees for airlines, which were due to end on October 31, are now extended until December 31.


Iran was the first country in the region to be seriously affected by the virus. Government figures show an initial wave of infections which peaked at the end of March. It subsided during April, briefly dipping below 1,000 new cases a day but then rose again. This week’s average was 3,531 a day — the highest level so far.


Iraq’s official figures are widely believed to understate the scale of the epidemic. Many cases go unreported because of social stigma. Compliance with preventive measures appears to be low and health services are inadequate.


New Covid-19 cases in Israel over the last six months. Seven-day rolling average, day by day.


For several months Jordan appeared to be the most successful Arab country in controlling the virus. Local transmission had virtually ceased and almost all the new cases were detected among people arriving from abroad.


New infections peaked in late May at just over 1,000 cases a day. The numbers have fluctuated since then, but have been declining during the last three weeks. New cases this week averaged 521 a day.


New Covid-19 cases in Lebanon over the last six months. Seven-day rolling average, day by day.


Libya is in its tenth year of internal conflict. The UN-backed Government of National Unity in Tripoli is challenged by Field Marshall Haftar’s forces based in the east of the country. There are also numerous militias. This leaves the country ill-equipped to cope with a major epidemic.


New Covid-19 cases in Morocco over the last six months. Seven-day rolling average, day by day.


New infections peaked in mid-July with just under 1,600 cases a day but dropped back sharply in August. They have risen again since, but not to previous levels.


The Palestinian enclave of Gaza is densely populated, with limited medical facilities, and there have long been fears about the likely consequences of a major epidemic. Until recently, however, Gaza had been relatively free of Covid-19, with only 117 confirmed cases.


In population terms Qatar has more known cases than any other country — 44,000 per million inhabitants. Migrant workers have been disproportionately affected. Qatar’s epidemic reached a peak in the first week of June but infections have fallen since then. New cases this week averaged 216 a day — well below the peak of more than 1,800 a day.


New Covid-19 cases in Saudi Arabia over the last six months. Seven-day rolling average, day by day.


The coronavirus struck Sudan in the midst of a political transition following a popular uprising against the regime of President Bashir and the country is ill-equipped to cope with a major epidemic. Testing is very limited and official figures don’t reflect the full scale of the outbreak. The health ministry appears to have stopped issuing daily reports.


According to official figures only 4,289 cases have been recorded in areas controlled by the Assad regime.


In June, Tunisia appeared to be almost free of the virus and began promoting itself as a safe holiday destination. Since then, though, there has been a setback and new infections this week averaged 761 a day.


The UAE’s epidemic peaked in the last week of May when new infections were running at more than 900 a day. Numbers of new cases declined through June, July and August but have been rising again recently. This week’s average of 998 a day matches the previous peak in May.


Because of the ongoing war, Yemen already faced a humanitarian crisis before the coronavirus arrived. Millions are malnourished and vulnerable to disease, and health services are inadequate.

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: Author of 'Arabs Without God'.