Coronavirus surges across Arab world in run up to Ramadan despite vaccine progress

Coronavirus surges across Arab world in run up to Ramadan despite vaccine progress
Health authorities across the Arab world are reporting an alarming rise in coronavirus infections as the fasting month of Ramadan approaches.
2 min read
01 April, 2021
Despite the arrival of vaccines, coronavirus cases continue to climb in the Arab world [AFP/Getty]

Despite promising signs from vaccination programmes, the Arab world is facing a coronavirus resurgence, reports suggest.

Jordan announced that 111 people had lost their lives due to the virus on Wednesday in the worst daily toll yet.

The Ministry of Health also revealed there were 6,570 new confirmed infections that day.

This is despite encouraging results from the country's vaccination rollout.

Jordan has so far administered 144,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which it said today has been effective in preventing deaths.

Nizar Mhaidat, the Director-General of the Jordan Food and Drug Administration, added that hospitalisations are also down.

The Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that a recent rise in cases and deaths, which began in February, came as a result of the spread of an extremely virulent British strain of the virus in Jordan.

In December, this same variant caused Saudi Arabia to close its international air borders.

Even after it lifted the measures, it kept heavy restrictions in place on travellers from the UK.

Read more: The geopolitics of vaccine diplomacy in the Middle East 

Likewise, Qatar, which has administered over 800,000 jabs, has been forced to pause all non-urgent procedures at private hospitals starting on Friday, according to the Qatari News Agency.

This is part of wider plans to curb the rate of coronavirus infection, which Doha says “has risen continuously” in recent weeks.

Worryingly, it acknowledged that this has meant “significant numbers of people [are] being admitted to hospital and intensive care every day with severe symptoms.”

As such, senior figures in the country's healthcare system, including Ahmed al-Mohammed, the Acting Head of the Intensive Care Department at the Hamad Medical Centres, are calling for another full lockdown.

Meanwhile, Oman brought back some coronavirus restrictions last week, though still recorded 1,162 cases of the disease on Wednesday.

However, data from Johns Hopkins University suggests that the worst is yet to come, as rates in the Gulf nation are on an upward trend.

This all comes as the Middle East and the rest of the Muslim world prepare for Ramadan, which begins in under two weeks and is usually an intensely social time.

The Egyptian government has announced several measures to prevent the spread of the virus during the month, including forbidding large indoor gatherings, but Asharq Al-Awsat says authorities anticipate a rise in cases.

This is despite Cairo having taken delivery of 854,000 additional vaccine doses on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Muslim doctors and Islamic scholars confirmed that it is permissible to take the coronavirus vaccine while fasting during the holy month.

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