Coronavirus cases continue to spread in the Middle East, particularly in Turkey and the Gulf, where they have increased from five to ten percent a day. There are now 230,000 in the region. However in Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Iran and Bahrain official numbers appear to be better as the new cases per day appear to be declining. This is creating a divide in the region between three sets of states: Those who have declining numbers, those who are increasing still and those where the count of cases is not possible due to conflict.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE imposed lockdowns early on, in March, but weeks later they are still seeing increases. In Saudi Arabia there are now more than 10,000 cases. In the UAE official counts, which are based on some of the largest percent of testing numbers in the world, amount to 7,265. Per capita that is high for a small country. The UAE conducted 25,000 tests on Monday.
Turkey is now the largest center of the pandemic in the Middle East with more than 90,000 cases. It will soon have more than 100,000 recorded cases. Its death toll is also over 2,000 and there are claims that the number of deaths may be higher. Ankara has boasted of its efforts against the virus and sent aid abroad even as it reels at home. It has other challenges, including problems in occupied northern Syria where Ankara backs Syrian rebel extremists and where millions of refugees require Turkey’s support. Turkey has been unclear as to how much help it is giving the areas it controls in northern Syria. The armed factions it supports continue to fight among each other and kidnap civilians, making it hard to test the areas for the virus.
In Jordan where there are only several hundred cases the country has been under one of the most strict global lockdowns. However it may soon ease these measures. In the Kurdistan region of Iraq the autonomous government has also imposed tough lockdowns and says it is achieving results. It also has very few cases.
North Africa has relatively few cases but there are concerns about underreporting in Egypt. In Libya there is a civil war and cases amount to only 51. Neighboring Tunisia says it has almost 900 cases. These countries have extended lockdown measures when possible. For instance Egypt, with more than 3,000 cases, extended its lockdown to this week as it tries to weigh if it is working.