While media coverage of the global coronavirus cases has focused on the U.S., Asia and Europe, the pandemic is taking hold in other parts of the world that receive less attention. In some cases the trends are worrisome.
The Middle East and North Africa
The Everbridge Risk Intelligence Service reports that nearly 74,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported across the region since the virus first appeared on January 29. There have been 3,390 deaths for a mortality rate of 4.6%.
Iran has been hardest hit by far, with more than 44,600 confirmed cases, nearly 2,900 deaths and the number of new infections and fatalities doubling every four days. However, the trend is troubling in other areas as well.
With more than 11,500 cases, Turkey is now the second-most affected country in the region, with the caseload doubling roughly every 48 hours. This is despite the fact that Turkey was one of the last countries in the region to record a positive coronavirus infection. The government has stopped short of ordering a nationwide lockdown but says that option remains open.
Israel’s experience shows the difficulties governments in some regions are having wrestling with local groups and customs. With 663 new cases reported over the previous 24 hours and a total caseload of nearly 5,400, the government has imposed tight restrictions such as a ban on nearly all public gatherings and workforce reductions to 15 percent of normal levels. However, the ultra-Orthodox Haredi community has largely failed to comply with the restrictions for reasons that include overcrowding, distrust of the government and the shunning of modern technology. Members of that community now comprise a disproportionately large number of the country’s coronavirus patients. A similar situation exists in Iran with Shi’a pilgrims.
Elsewhere in the region, governments in nearly every country have announced lockdowns and/or nightly curfews as well as travel restrictions and bans on large gatherings. The pandemic is taking an economic toll as work throughout the region is curbed. Ford and Hyundai have suspended Turkish operations and Renault has shuttered facilities in Morocco. The six-month-long Dubai Expo 2020 summit may be postponed for one year, depriving the emirate of more than $9 billion in revenue.
Latin America and the Caribbean
More than 17,600 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, an increase of 155 percent over the last seven days. There have been 460 fatalities.
Most countries throughout the region have barred the entry of non-resident foreigners, shut down schools and non-essential businesses and implemented quarantines or other restrictions on movement.
Despite Ecuador’s relatively small population of less than 17 million, the country has the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the region. Everbridge Risk Intelligence Service credits this to the more than 422,00 Ecuadorians who live in Spain, which creates a high level of travel between the two countries. With more than 85,000 cases, Spain is the fourth most heavily impacted country in the world by the coronavirus.
Another problem is that healthcare systems in many Latin American and Caribbean countries are small and under-resourced creating “the risk of collapse as the scope of the pandemic continues to widen,” Everbridge said.
The ripple effect of shutdowns by locally and in other countries hits some Latin American economies hard. The Dominican Republic, for example, relies heavily upon tourism for its economic health. As resorts and hotels have closed for a lack of overseas visitors, many of the 350,000 people who work directly and indirectly in the hospitality industry have been idled. Local farmers are also suffering from the loss of orders from the hotel industry.
The ripple effect also applies to petroleum-producing countries such as Venezuela and Ecuador, which are heavily dependent on commodity exports to China. The economic slowdown in Asia is thus hitting the economies of countries half a world away.
The good news for this region is that the World Health Organization says the number of cases is still small enough that it may be possible to contain the spread of the virus. In about half of the affected countries in the region, cases have been limited to those imported from abroad. However, local community transmission is rising.
Of the 3,500 cases in the lower part of the continent, South Africa accounts for nearly 40%. But the number of new cases is declining there as a nationwide lockdown takes effect. The second worst-affected country is Burkina Faso with just under 250 confirmed cases. Local transmission has been detected in Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Ghana.
Most countries in the region have suspended or severely restricted passenger flights, leaving many foreign nationals stranded. Most mining sites in South Africa are idle and mining disruptions have also spread to Madagascar, Namibia and Mozambique.
Sub-Saharan Africa has had more than its share of pandemic-related tragedies in the past. With limited facilities to treat sufferers in many countries, health officials are hoping that containment can help the region dodge the bullet this time.