Coronavirus: Official Middle East data rule out catastrophe

But don't always reflect true reality on the ground

14 April, 16:29

    (ANSAmed) - BEIRUT, APRIL 14 - The coronavirus hasn't yet hit the Middle East in the "catastrophic" way that many had foreseen, despite its geographic proximity to Iran, where the first and most serious outbreak of the virus occurred with more than 4,000 deaths, and despite the structural vulnerability of the health systems in many Arab countries between the Mediterranean and southwest Asia, hit directly and indirectly by armed conflicts and socio-economic turbulence.

    According to official data thus far distributed by various health authorities in Arab countries, crossed with those of international research centres connected to the World Health Organization, as of today there have been 443 deaths due to Covid-19 in the 11 Arab countries east of the Mediterranean and the Gulf, which counts a total population of about 160 million people.

    Iraq, including the autonomous region of Kurdistan, emerges as the country with the most deaths (78), with a relatively low number of infections (1,378) in the entire Middle Eastern Arab and Gulf area.

    Excluding countries hit for years by war such as Yemen and Syria, where officially there are one and 25 cases, respectively, and with only two deaths attributed to Covid-19 in Syria, Kuwait is the country where the virus seems to have taken the fewest number of victims (two deaths), followed by Oman (four), Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain (seven).

    However, the figures aren't necessarily in line with the real situation on the ground.

    In some cases, such as in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, authorities have admitted that they can't conduct blanket exams on the population.

    Added to this is the low trust that many local communities have in state authorities, accused of corruption and a lack of transparency.

    Iraq, with a population of 38 million people, has the lowest rate of tests conducted (900 per million residents).

    Lebanon and Jordan registered just over 2,000 tests per million people, and figures are not available for Yemen, Syria, Kuwait, and Oman.

    The United Arab Emirates conducted the most tests (648,000; 65,000 per million residents), followed by Bahrain (67,000; 39,000 per million residents); and Qatar (50,000; 17,000 per million residents).

    Saudi Arabia conducted many tests (115,000), but this is a limited number when considered as a percentage of the population (3,000 per million residents).(ANSAmed).

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