The World Health Organization (WHO) has described the coronavirus pandemic situation in the Eastern Mediterranean as “fragile” despite the decline in infection cases and deaths.
WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Ahmed Al-Mandhari said in his statement on COVID-19 that as of September 12, the region has reported “more than 15 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 278,000 deaths.”
The virtual conference he spoke at was also attended by Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO regional emergency director for the Eastern Mediterranean, and Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain, the WHO representative in Iran.
Mandhari added in the statement published on WHO’s website that “over the past few weeks, we have seen the overall number of cases and deaths in our region decline, but the situation remains fragile and unpredictable.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen the trends evolve in waves.”
“Five of 22 countries in our region -- Egypt, the occupied Palestinian territory, Somalia, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Yemen -- are currently reporting significant surges in COVID-19 cases and deaths,” he said.
“Looking closely at the epidemiological curve, there is a need to speed up the vaccination process and continue to respect all public health and social measures in all countries,” he added.
According to Mandhari, low vaccination coverage, especially low- and lower-middle-income countries is also of concern due to limited deployment capacities. “Unfortunately, this means that nine countries are far from achieving WHO’s global target of 10 percent vaccination coverage by September 2021.”
He further called for “solidarity and equitable access to vaccines, to move towards the target of all countries protecting 10 percent of their population by September, 40 percent by the end of this year and 70 percent by mid of next year.”
“While we know that the targets for 2021 will not be met in all countries, we must do our absolute best to come as close as possible and then to accelerate our efforts further in the months ahead,” he said.
“Thanks to the COVAX facility, the region has received 51.54 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines out of 89 million doses allocated to countries so far. To increase coverage further, we urge high-income countries, donors, and partners to spare no effort to increase vaccine supplies for lower-income countries.”
Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain said the country's five COVID-19 waves coincided with festivities, elections, or religious gatherings.