This page provides links to al-bab's daily updates on the spread of coronavirus in the Middle East during the 2020 pandemic.
Text from the updates can also be found on a separate page where they are grouped to provide a narrative for each country.
A spreadsheet containing day-by-data regarding new infections and related deaths can be viewed here.
4 April 2020
Middle East updates: Israel rations coronavirus testing; health minister under fire
In a sudden reversal of policy, Israel's health ministry has announced a cutback in coronavirus testing. Supplies of the essential chemical reagent are running low and in an effort to conserve them testing will, in effect, be rationed. Read more...
3 April 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: Algeria's death toll rises sharply
In the Middle East and North Africa region, Algeria now has the highest death toll linked to coronavirus outside Iran. Read more...
2 April 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: why Egypt rationed testing
The Egyptian authorities have been taking exception to suggestions that there are far more coronavirus cases in the country than official figures reveal. Read more...
1 April 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: situation in Egypt is 'reassuring', Sisi says
Egypt's efforts to control the spread of coronavirus are "good and reassuring", President Sisi claimed yesterday as the authorities reported 54 new cases and five more deaths. Read more...
Coronavirus in the Middle East: how death rates vary around the region
During the last 24 hours, a further 145 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in the Middle East and North Africa. Of these, 117 were in Iran and 28 in the rest of the region. Read more...
30 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: social distancing 'is a privilege' of the better-off
In most of the Middle East, as in many other parts of the world, social distancing is the order of the day. People are being urged to stay at home and minimise contact with others. Sensible as that might be, in the teeming slums of Cairo, in the camps for displaced people in Syria and Iraq, in the compounds housing migrant workers in the Gulf, isolation it is not a practical option. Read more...
29 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: the importance of testing. Plus today's updates
One problem in monitoring the coronavirus pandemic is that nobody really knows how many people have been infected. A growing number of new cases can be one indicator of how fast the virus is spreading, but that has to be weighed against other factors. Read more...
28 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: how death tolls diverge among Arab states
Since the beginning of March striking differences have emerged in the course of the coronavirus epidemic among Arab countries – especially in the numbers of deaths. Read more...
27 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: social distancing, Egyptian style; plus today's updates
Anyone who still doubts that Egypt is heading for a coronavirus catastrophe should take a look at the picture above. It shows the health minister setting the worst possible example by holding a news conference in a room packed with more than 50 people. Read more...
26 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: the looming problem of Ramadan, plus today's updates
Throughout the Middle East, governments of all political complexions are trying to check the spread of coronavirus. Lockdowns, curfews, quarantine and social distancing are the order of the day. But there's something else looming: Ramadan is just four weeks away and the question is what will happen then. Read more...
25 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia seals off cities as new cases soar
Amid rapidly-growing numbers of new infections and the first two coronavirus-related deaths, Saudi Arabia is sealing off the cities of Riyadh, Mecca and Medina. From tomorrow, no one will be allowed to leave or enter. Read more...
24 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: Algeria cracks down amid a shortage of test kits
With new coronavirus cases in Algeria increasing at an alarming rate, on Monday President Abdelmadjid Tebboune announced a complete curfew in Blida province which is the seat of more than half of the 230 confirmed infections. Read more...
23 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: nationwide curfews in four Arab countries
Four Arab countries have now declared nationwide curfews in an effort to check the spread of coronavirus ... Read more
22 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: first cases in Gaza, plus worries about non-compliance
There's alarm in a growing number of Middle Eastern countries about members of the public who are not complying with the rules on self-isolation and social distancing. As a result, the authorities are resorting to ever more draconian measures in their effort to combat coronavirus ... Read more
21 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: Troops enforce round-the-clock curfew in Jordan
Sirens sounded in Jordan at 7am this morning to mark the start of a strict round-the-clock curfew enforced by thousands of troops. Shops are closed and anyone violating the curfew faces up to a year in jail ... read more
20 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: Israel cracks down on non-compliance as new cases soar
The number of people in Israel known to have been infected with coronavirus rose by 56% yesterday with the confirmation of 501 new cases. Israel's cumulative total – 677 cases since the outbreak began – is now the highest in the Middle East apart from Iran ... read more
19 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: Jordan invokes wartime powers
From today Jordan's capital, Amman, is sealed off by the military and movement between the country's 12 governorates is prohibited. There are also restrictions on movement within the governorates. This follows a royal decree activating activating Jordan's National Defence Law, intended mainly for times of war, which gives the prime minister extraordinary powers ... read more
18 March 2020
Middle East updates: Egypt warns journalists over coronavirus reports
The Egyptian government has accused reporters from the Guardian and the New York Times of violating "all the rules of journalistic work" in connection with the country's coronavirus epidemic ... read more
17 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: updates for March 17
Iran reported 1,053 new coronavirus cases on Monday, with a further 129 deaths. Elsewhere in the Middle East, a further 216 cases have been confirmed since yesterday's update ... read more
16 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: Israel's surveillance plan, plus latest updates
In today's report: Israel calls on Shin Bet to track coronavirus contacts; stringent new measures in Saudi Arabia; doubts over coronavirus "rapid tests" ... read more
15 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: latest updates as the epidemic gathers pace
Outside Iran, the epidemic in the rest of the region is clearly gathering pace. The numbers of new cases are now almost three times what they were a week ago. During the last four days the average has been 220 new cases per day compared with an average of only 77 per day during the previous four days ... read more
14 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: latest updates, plus the question of Gaza
Although there are 35 known coronavirus cases among Palestinians in the West Bank, so far none have been diagnosed in Gaza. Given the siege conditions in Gaza, it's widely believed that an outbreak there would be catastrophic – and it may only be a matter of time ... read more
13 March 2020
Coronavirus: Middle East countries are not providing enough information, WHO says
Governments in the Middle East are not providing enough information about coronavirus cases in their countries, the regional director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Thursday ... read more
12 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: ominous signs as new cases soar
The coronavirus epidemic took a dramatic and terrifying turn in the Middle East on Wednesday. The total of known cases outside Iran leapt by 60% in a single day to 1,056. The number of confirmed new cases was 420 – almost five times the highest one-day increase reported previously. By far the largest increases were in Qatar and Bahrain ... read more
11 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: updates for March 11
On Tuesday Iran reported 54 more deaths from coronavirus, bringing the total to 291. The daily death toll has risen on each of the last five days, and Tuesday's figure is the highest yet recorded. Elsewhere in the Middle East, 71 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 636. Israel had the largest increase with 25 new cases ... read more
10 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: a hopeful sign in Iran?
Iran reported 595 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the official total to 7,161. Although the official figures need to be treated with caution there are tentative signs that Iran's situation may be improving. The number of coronavirus cases in Israel has doubled during the last two days and now stands at 50. This prompted prime minister Netanyahu to announce that everyone entering the country must go into self-quarantine for two weeks ... read more
9 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: updates for March 9
Iran, the Middle Eastern country most affected by the coronavirus epidemic, reported 743 new cases on Sunday, bringing the official total to 6,566. For the second day running there was a drop in the number of new cases reported in Iran but the number of deaths – 49 – was the highest so far reported in a single day. Across the rest of the region there are 491 confirmed cases – an increase of 76 since yesterday's update ... read more
8 March 2020
New coronavirus cases surge in the Arab countries
Iran reported 1,076 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the official total to 5,823. Across the rest of the Middle East the total is much lower – 415 confirmed cases – but the overall trend is now relentlessly upwards. On Friday, the number of new cases, which had not previously risen above 30 in a single day, suddenly surged to 61. Saturday's tally shows a further big rise ... read more
7 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: sudden spike in new cases
Iran reported 1,234 new coronavirus cases on Friday. Elsewhere in the Middle East there are 61 new cases – by far the highest daily increase since the epidemic began. It brings the cumulative total for the region (excluding Iran) to 328 ... read more
6 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: new cases slowing down in Kuwait, UAE and Bahrain
In the ten days since al-bab began tracking, 210 new cases have been confirmed in the region outside Iran and the number of countries affected has grown from eight to 14, with the West Bank of Palestine the latest addition to the list ... read more
5 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: updates for March 5
The largest number of new cases in the region outside Iran was in Algeria – all involving members of the same family. In addition, there are four suspected new Palestinian cases at a hotel in Beit Jala on the West Bank ... read more
4 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: updates for March 4
Iran reported 835 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the official (but disputed) total to 2,336. Also on Tuesday, Iran's civil defence chief, Brigadier General Gholam Reza Jalali, made the extraordinary suggestion that his country has been subjected to a biological attack. ... read more
3 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: updates for March 3
Iran reported a further huge increase in the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on Monday. The official figure now stands at 1,501, with 66 deaths so far, though the official figures are disputed. On Tuesday, local media reported that 23 members of Iran's parliament are among those infected ... read more
2 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: updates for March 2
There's good news from Iran – at least, according to health ministry spokesperson Kianoush Jahanpour. On Sunday he announced that Iran has "been able to cure" more coronavirus patients than another other country apart from China ... read more
1 March 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: updates for March 1
Amid accusations that Iran is trying to conceal the full scale of its coronavirus epidemic, the health ministry revised its statistics upwards on Saturday. The official tally of COVID-19 cases is now 593 – an increase of 205 on Friday's figure. Iran's official death toll has also been revised from 34 to 43. Despite these revisions, there's a widespread belief that the true figures are much higher ... read more
29 February 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: February 29 updates
Iran announced on Friday that the number of coronavirus cases in the country has risen to 388, with 34 deaths so far (among a population of more than 80 million). These official figures are widely disbelieved and it's likely the actual totals are much higher ... read more
28 February 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: February 28 updates
Thirteen new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Middle East since Thursday's update – six in the UAE, two each in Oman and Kuwait, and one each in Iraq, Israel and Lebanon ... read more
27 February 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: February 27 updates
Twenty-five new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Arab countries since Wednesday's update – 17 in Kuwait, seven in Bahrain and one in Iraq ... read more
26 February 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: February 26 updates
Twenty-three new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Arab countries since yesterday's report, and Algeria is a newcomer to the list. Excluding Iran (where details are very confused), the latest tally of cases in the rest of the Middle East region is as follows ... read more
25 February 2020
Coronavirus in the Middle East: the latest developments
Coronavirus cases have now been reported in nine countries in the Middle East. The outbreak in Iran is clearly the most serious in the region, and it may be more extensive than the official figures suggest. Elsewhere in the region the number of cases is small and no deaths have been reported so far ... read more