The Eastern Mediterranean region has seen a total of 1,862,635 infections since the start of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) reported on Friday.
In a statement, the WHO said the figure represents 8.0% of the global burden of more than 23 million cases reported to date.
It added that it has developed, in cooperation with countries across the region, a comprehensive set of back-to-school guidelines and risk communication materials. This has been undertaken to guide students, parents, teachers and administrators on how to protect themselves and students, and prevent the virus’ spread in educational settings.
The WHO added that the increase of cases that has been witnessed in some Eastern Mediterranean region countries is a result of lifting lockdowns and easing public health measures. Other concurrent emergency situations have also played a part in the coronavirus’ spread in the region.
Lebanon has seen a rise in cases even before the recent devastating explosion in Beirut, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip has seen confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of quarantine centres for the first time, and has, as a result, imposed a 48-hour curfew to try to control the outbreak. Other countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, are also witnessing upsurges of varying degrees.
The WHO asserted that many factors may be causing the upsurge in each country. These include the movement of migrants, mass religious gatherings and socio-political issues, among others.
To address the situation, the WHO Regional Office has formed a taskforce to work closely with these Member States, to undertake an evidence-based situation analysis. The taskforce is also set to explore the most effective rapid response options, and provide technical and logistical support when and where needed.
The WHO pointed out that eight months after the pandemic began, health system responses across the Eastern Mediterranean region have matured. The organisation noted that this is a positive sign that the region is moving in the right direction.
In order to commit to its regional vision of Health for All by All, the WHO has asserted the importance of solidarity, partnership, inter- and intra-governmental collaboration, and joint action in these challenging times.
The risk of resurgence in coronavirus cases after restrictions are lifted is high, and countries in the region should maintain strong public health measures to limit the spread of the infection. The WHO also warned that the only solution is to work together to combat this pandemic on all fronts, by bringing down the curve and controlling the transmission.