More than 320,000 coronavirus cases in Middle East

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There are now more than 320,000 officially reported cases of Covid-19 in the Middle East. The virus continues to spread slowly in most countries, although in the Gulf daily increases tend to exceed five percent. In addition, several countries that reported few cases are now seeing rises, including Yemen and Sudan. The largest number of coronavirus cases are found in Turkey which has 124,375. Turkey in early mid-March claimed that it was a model for fighting the virus and had just a handful of cases. However, it saw rapid increases in late March and early April, leading to an extensive outbreak. Turkey now claims it has gotten it under control and that there are only a few thousand new cases a day. Iran, which saw a huge outbreak in February, has also seen cases declining. It now has 96,448 cases according to its government reported statistics. There are concerns that Iran’s data may be too low or that its government is involved in a cover-up. At the same time the regime in Tehran has used the virus outbreak to request sanctions relief, which would appear to be at odds with also wanting to cover up the true numbers. Syria, Libya and Yemen, which are in the midst of civil war, both have very low numbers of cases. There are only 44 reported cases in Syria and 63 in Libya. There are now ten cases in Yemen. Because the UN-recognized governments of these countries only control a small part of the country, there is no real way for them to test for the virus or to report official data because the way the international community works is that there is no independence bodies that affirm cases. That means that there may be a much wider outbreak in many countries where there are ungoverned areas or rebellions. Yemen has seen cases increase from just one to ten, but it appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. While some countries, using various methods of lockdowns, have appears to keep cases low, such as only 460 report in the Kingdom of Jordan, the Gulf states have seen rapid increases. Saudi Arabia now has 25,459 cases and Qatar has 14,872. This is despite the fact that many of these countries can easily close their borders and have the hi-tech to test. The UAE, for instance, has tested more than 1 million people and found 13,599 cases. All these countries have low death tolls. For 3,200 cases in Bahrain there are only 8 reported deaths. By comparison Algeria has 4,200 cases and 459 deaths. Turkey has 3,300 deaths. The Gulf states therefore have increases in cases but have provided care to an extent that low death tolls have resulted. By comparison Israel had 16,185 cases as of the morning of May 3, and 229 deaths. The Middle East now appears to be “flattening” the overall curve of the virus spread. Overall cases once peaked at almost 10,000 new cases a day on April 11, according to data from the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, but those numbers have declined to around 7,000 new cases a day in the las ten days. This still leaves large question marks about those countries with insufficient testing capacity. The Middle East is a relative hotspot for the virus compared to neighboring regions. For instance official numbers in Central Asia, the Caucuses and the Horn of Africa are far less than the Middle East and North Africa. Turkmenistan still claims to have zero cases, while Tajikistan says it has only 76. Those 76 have appeared in the last few days. Pakistan is worse hit with around 19,000 cases. Sudan has 500 while Greece has only 2,600.

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