The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a stark warning about the spread of the coronavirus in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. “We are at a critical threshold in our region,” the WHO’s Middle East head Ahmed Al-Mandhari told an online press conference yesterday.
Al Mandhari’s remarks came as 22 countries from Morocco to Pakistan passed the one million mark, recording a total of 1,077,706 Covid-19 infections and 24,973 deaths, according to figures published by the global health body.
The WHO official pointed out that passing one million infections marked a “concerning milestone” and urged countries to strengthen their healthcare systems. “The number of cases reported in June alone is higher than the total number of cases reported during the four months following the first reported case in the region on 29 January,” he added.
The dramatic rise in new cases was attributed to the general lifting of the lockdown and increased testing. Five countries account for over 80 per cent of all deaths in the region: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.
With 162 new death on Monday, Iran, one of the hardest-hit countries, recorded its highest single-day virus death toll since the start of the pandemic. It has now recorded a total of 230,211 infections and 10,958 deaths.
Last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a bleak forecast for countries in the MENA region. It warned that the economies of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), for example, will shrink by 7.6 per cent following the coronavirus outbreak.
Worldwide, the pandemic has killed more than 516,800 people, with total infections of over 10.7 million. Around 5.5 million people have recovered from the disease, according to figures published by America’s Johns Hopkins University today.