While severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV 2) is rapidly spreading in all nations, COVID-19 is the second coronavirus outbreak in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations following the middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 (1). The World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 disease as a ‘Public Health Emergency of International concern’ on 30th January 2020 after a cluster of its cases were reported in Wuhan, China (2).
GCC Countries reporting first cases and fatality due to COVID-19
The COVID-19 hit GCC nations when UAE reported its first four confirmed cases on 29th January 2020 followed by three confirmed cases reported by Kuwait on 24th February 2020 (Table1). A day after that, Oman reported two confirmed cases while Bahrain reported eight cases. On 1st March, Qatar reported its first confirmed case followed by Saudi Arabia two days after that. (3) COVID-19 related fatalities in the GCC region reported in Bahrain on 16th March 2020 followed by two fatalities in UAE on 22nd March 2020 and one death in Saudi Arabia on 25th March 2020. Three days later, Qatar reported its first fatality whereas Oman reported its first fatality on 1st April 2020. Following this, Kuwait reported its first death on 4th April 2020. (3)
Among the GCC countries, Saudi Arabia has the highest number of COVID-19 confirmed cases accounting to 5, 98,545 resulting in 329 fatalities followed by Qatar that reported a total 35,606 confirmed cases and only 15 fatalities. Moreover, UAE reported a total 25,063confirmed cases with 227 fatalities whereas Kuwait reported a total 16,764confirmed cases and 121 fatalities. Oman has the lowest number of COVID-19 cases of 5,671 among the GCC nations and 26 fatalities. (4). However, results show that the Qatar has the highest new cases per million (1042/million), followed by Kuwait (448/million) and Bahrain (261/million) (Figuure1a, 1b &1c). Even though that Saudi Arabia has the highest total cases/millions of COVID-19, it still has lower new cases per million (Figure2a and 2b).
Even though, Saudi Arabia has the highest COVID-19 total cases per million and Qatar has the highest new cases per million, Kuwait has highest total fatality per million (28 per million) followed by United Arab Emirates that had fatality of 23 per million.
GCC countries policy response to COVID-19
The COVID-19 response has been somewhat similar with respect to restrictions in the travel, schools, educational institutions, workplaces, and businesses. The UAE has suspended all travellers from entry to and from China, Iran, and Thailand since the pandemic. Furthermore, all schools and educational institutes have been closed until the end of the academic year since 8th March 2020. UAE has also intensified the COVID-19 testing and screening all suspected residents and travellers that have arrived from affected countries. (5)
Similarly, Kuwait has been under complete lockdown since 11th March 2020 including restricting the work of all government sectors except emergency services (6,7). Moreover, all school teaching has also been suspended since 1st March 2020. On 13th March 2020, all road travel and airlines were suspended with an exception for cargo flights, locking down the country until further notice. (7)
Bahrain has also declared the closure of schools and other educational institutions as a preventive measure. Bahrain is screening travellers arriving from coronavirus affected nations. Self-isolation is mandated to travellers arriving from coronavirus affected nations (8).
Qatar recommended its citizens to defer travel to and from coronavirus affected nations and closure of educational institutions until further notice (9). Similarly, there have been travel restrictions in the Oman region since 29th March 2020 until further notice and the country has also been under lockdown since 10th April 2020 which is expected to be lifted on 29th May 2020 (10).
Finally, the Department of Health of Saudi Arabia has been following up on the COVID-19 situation in the country and has got 25 healthcare settings prepared as a proactive preventative measure (11). In conclusion, the recovery rate has been high in Kuwait and Bahrain whereas the coronavirus cases are still increasing in other GCC nations with the highest rate in Qatar (4).
GCC countries have responded aggressively to prevent the spread of COVID-19 outbreak by introducing several stringent measures. Monitoring the policy response of the GCC countries, and the manner in which governments handle this crisis will determine their future.
- Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/middle-east-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-(mers-cov)
- WHO Timeline – COVID-19 [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/27-04-2020-who-timeline—covid-19
- 20200515-covid-19-sitrep-116.pdf [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200515-covid-19-sitrep-116.pdf?sfvrsn=8dd60956_2
- Joshi DA. Home [Internet]. SMAART RapidTracker: A Global Policy Informatics Tool to Track COVID-19 Outbreak (Corona Virus Disease Outbreak). [cited 2020 May 21]. Available from: http://www.smaartrapidtracker.org/
- News – Ministry of Health and Prevention – UAE [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://www.mohap.gov.ae/en/MediaCenter/Pages/news.aspx#4f2627c6-74df-4ae5-9a14-d41e4734a7ee=%7B%22k%22%3A%22%22%7D#58c30df3-a5db-40b3-9e3f-e8817bb9f1f7=%7B%22k%22%3A%22%22%2C%22o%22%3A%5B%7B%22p%22%3A%22MOHPublishDateOWSDATEMP%22%2C%22d%22%3A1%7D%5D%2C%22s%22%3A%2217%22%7D
- COVID-19 Information [Internet]. U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. 2020 [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://kw.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/
- COVID 19 Updates .::. Breaking News [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://corona.e.gov.kw/En/Home/BreakingNews
- Publications – Ministry of Health [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://www.moh.gov.bh/COVID19/Publications
- Ministry of Public Health [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://www.moph.gov.qa/english
- Observer O. Oman Air to temporarily suspend all flights [Internet]. Oman Observer. 2020 [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://www.omanobserver.om/oman-air-to-temporarily-suspend-all-flights/
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Ministry of Health Portal [Internet]. [cited 2020 May 24]. Available from: https://www.moh.gov.sa/en/Pages/default.aspx