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COVID cases surge in Middle East is a cause of concern: WHO

COVID cases surge in Middle East is a cause of concern: WHO

The recent spike in cases across Middle Eastern countries is a cause for concern, said the World Health Organization's Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in a statement issued on July 13.

Countries like Libya, Iran, Iraq and Tunisia reported a significant rise in Covid-19 cases, with Lebanon and Morocco following close suit. The latter two countries are expected to witness a surge in infections in the next 2 weeks, according to the WHO.

Tunisia currently reports 8000 to 9000 new cases every day, largely constituting the spread of the Delta variant. The daily average of cases in the Islamic Republic of Iran almost doubled in 4 weeks, increasing from 8539 cases on June 6 to 16,393 cases on July 4. Iraq has witnessed an increase in cases from the end of May, with the daily average doubling in 5 weeks from 4010 cases to 8076 cases on July 4.

In Libya, the daily average of cases increased from 246 cases on June 20 to 1293 on July 4, which is a 425% increase. Morocco also reported a steady increase in cases, largely due to the Alpha and Delta variants.

"Just one week after reaching the grim milestone of 11 million cases, we are now seeing an upward spike in a number of countries," said WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari. The rise in cases is attributed to the low availability of vaccines, slow vaccine roll-out, the spread of new variants such as the Delta variant, and failure to adhere to Covid-19 SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) such as social distancing and wearing masks.

WHO also expressed concerns over a surge in cases, in light of Eid-Al-Adha celebrations, stating that "the current upsurge may continue to peak in the coming weeks, with catastrophic consequences."

Eid-Al-Adha festivities are expected to begin the coming week starting July 20 and usually include social and religious gatherings.

WHO noted that while significant progress has been made, there is still a disparity in the global distribution of the vaccine, leaving many people susceptible to contracting deadly variants. "As variants continue to spread, we need everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they are offered the vaccine, and to continue wearing masks, and practising physical distancing," said Dr Al-Mandhari.

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