The number of cases of coronavirus in the Middle East increased to more than 50,000 on Saturday night, and continues to rise everyday by the thousands. More than half of the cases are in Iran, where official numbers put them at 35,000. However, the real number in the Islamic Republic is thought to be as much as five times that, according to the WHO. In other areas of the region, Israel and Turkey top the largest number of cases with more than 3,500 and 7,000, respectively. There are thought to be more than 1,200 cases in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom continues travel restrictions. In the UAE, where there are almost 500 cases, a drive-through testing facility has been inaugurated. In Egypt, where there are only 570 recorded cases but fears there could be many more, a lockdown is underway. In Jordan, a lockdown has also been used to stop the spread of the virus. There are only 246 cases in Israel’s eastern neighbor so far. The rest of the Gulf states have large numbers of cases per capita. Around 600 cases in Qatar and 450 in Bahrain. These small city-states imported most of their cases from Iran in February and are now trying to control the spread. Meanwhile in Libya, Yemen and Syria, there are concerns that the virus is spreading and not being identified. A strict lockdown is underway in eastern Syria where US-backed Kurdish forces hope to prevent an outbreak. With few ventilators and no way to test, they have no idea what will come next. In the Kurdish region of Iraq, there is also a strict lockdown and very few cases. The Middle East generally does not have the resources to confront a major rise in cases. While the wealthy Gulf states will be fine, the other countries have a major challenge ahead of them. Toward that end, officials in the UAE have phoned Damascus to say they will support its efforts against the virus. Meanwhile, Iran says it is fighting the virus like a “biological war.” It is mobilizing soldiers and militias. New technologies such as drones and unmanned vehicles are also being used in the region.
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