India remains on kingdom’s non-travel list as Covid-19 cases near 9 million in Mena
The number of Covid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region reached 8,856,159 on May 31, according to Worldometer data compiled by MEED.
GCC countries account for 22.6% (1,998,686) of all regional cases, and Iran’s 2,913,136 cases represent 32.9% of the MENA total.
Since May 24, 187,536 new cases have been reported in the 17 MENA countries monitored by the MEED.
Spikes in cases are leading to the introduction of new restrictions in parts of the region even as some countries prepare to reopen their travel borders.
Saudi Arabia Covid-19 Update
Saudi Arabia has lifted a ban on travelers from 11 countries, provided quarantine procedures are followed on arrival. The list of additional countries from which travelers to Saudi Arabia are now permitted include:
- United Arab Emirates
Travel to 13 countries remains limited and Saudi citizens require prior authorization to travel to these destinations. The Saudi Interior Ministry’s no-fly “ red list ” includes:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud has ordered the extension of free visit, exit and return visas until June 2 for residents of Saudi Arabia stranded in countries on the red list of travel.
UAE Covid-19 Update
New Covid-19 rules have also been introduced in the UAE, where all events and exposures will be limited to people who are fully vaccinated and show negative Covid-19 test results. The new rules, which take effect on June 6, include sporting, cultural, social and artistic events.
In Abu Dhabi, government entities and businesses have been allowed to increase office use to 60% from the 30% restriction announced in February. Remote work can be continued for employees aged 60 and over and those with chronic illnesses and low immunity, as well as determined employees, pregnant and breastfeeding employees and a parent of a child studying remotely in grades 10 and below, until the end of the current school term.
Unvaccinated employees are required to show weekly Covid-19 test results in Abu Dhabi, while those who received the second dose of their vaccine at least 28 days ago must show monthly results. Individuals must bear the costs of these mandatory periodic tests, but those with vaccination exemption certificates are exempt from being responsible for them.
Qatar activates gradual recovery
Covid-19 restrictions are also relaxed in Qatar, where recreation spaces, education centers and restaurants have been allowed to reopen as part of Doha’s plans for a gradual recovery.
Vaccinated people are allowed at limited home gatherings, and shopping malls can operate at 30% capacity for people 12 years of age and older. Gyms, swimming pools and lounges may reopen at a limited capacity, with local and international sporting events allowed at 30% capacity at open venues. Weddings, conferences and exhibitions remain prohibited.
Qatar plans to resume operations in four phases between May 28 and July 30.
Bahrain introduces closures
Sidewalks have been reintroduced in Bahrain due to a recent spike in the number of cases. Shopping malls, cafes and restaurants closed for two weeks from May 27, with 70% of officials scheduled to work remotely until June 10.
Beaches, hair salons, amusement stores, gyms, cinemas, swimming pools, salons, spas, and recreational and dining venues are also closed, and conferences and in-person events are canceled. . Cafes, restaurants and shops were allowed to offer home delivery and take-out services.
Funding organized in Kuwait and Iran
The Kuwaiti parliament last week approved a budget of KD 600 million ($ 2 billion) to be distributed as a reward to frontline Covid-19 workers in the country. Sixty-one of the 62 members of the National Assembly present during the extraordinary parliamentary session would have approved the payment.
Elsewhere, Tehran has revealed its intention to pay for Covid-19 vaccines using its frozen funds in Iraq. State news agency Irna, quoting Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian, said the funds would be transferred to a Swiss account and used to purchase vaccines through the Covax facility. It is understood that most of the funds frozen in Iraq are payments for natural gas and electricity sold by Iran.
“Through continued efforts, we were able to secure the necessary approvals to wire $ 125 million from the Trade Bank of Iraq to a Swiss bank for 16 million doses of vaccine supplied by Covax,” Ardakanian said.
President Hassan Rouhani said earlier this week that an Iran-developed Covid-19 vaccine would be launched by the end of June, with Tehran planning to conclude its public vaccination campaign in three to four months.
Iraq plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions in stages over the coming weeks. Parliamentary health committee member Jawad al-Musawi said the authority had offered to track daily figures for 10 days before lifting the partial two-step curfew.
The committee’s recommendation is to reduce the partial curfew hours in the first stage, while the second stage will include the complete lifting of the curfew if daily Covid-19 infections fall to between 1,000 and 2,000 within 10 days.
Covid-19 in the Levant and the Maghreb
Beirut has introduced measures to gradually resume economic activities. This includes the requirement for travelers from the UK and Brazil to present a negative PCR test result received within 96 hours of arrival in the country. Travelers should also take a PCR test at Beirut International Airport and book a room for five days at a hotel specified by the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism.
National and foreign diplomatic missions are exempt from hotel quarantine provided they adhere to the five-day quarantine in their residences.
The same rule applies to people who have received both Covid-19 vaccines or to those who have been infected with Covid-19 within 90 days of their travel date.
Lebanon has also extended the schedule for shopping malls, which can now stay open until 12:30 p.m., with entertainment centers allowed to reopen at 50% capacity.
On May 27, a consignment of 1.5 million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine aboard two 787 Royal Air Maroc arrived at Mohammed V airport in Casablanca. The shipment is in addition to the 10 million doses promised to Morocco by China by the end of May. In total, 40 million doses of Sinopharm are expected in Morocco.
Algeria is preparing health measures for passengers traveling by air when it lifts restrictions on international flights from June 1. Five flights per day are planned from three airports in Algeria.
Passengers must test negative for Covid-19 less than 36 hours before the date of travel to Algeria, and all passengers must be quarantined for five days in hotels at their expense. The quarantine period will be extended to 10 days for those who test positive for Covid-19 at the end of the first five days.