APN COVID Report #7: Israel's neighbors in the age of COVID-19


Israel’s most connected neighbor has fared relatively well throughout this crisis. The number of COVID-19 cases as of May 1st stood at 453 and deaths at 8 (population 10 million). Since Monday April 27th, there have not been more than 2 cases confirmed per day and there have been some days with no new cases. This shows a country that truly has gone through its curve – Jordan’s most cases in a day were 40 just over a month ago and this has steadily declined since. The Jordanian government was swift and harsh in its response to the virus, which is likely why they have managed to keep numbers so low.

On Saturday March 21st the government imposed a full lockdown, with people not even allowed to leave their homes for food for four days until a nationwide delivery system was organized. At this point, Jordan had only had 84 cases. Jordan had already suspended all land, sea and air travel on Tuesday March 17, when the case count stood at less than 50. These draconian measures were certainly not without problems: hundreds arrested, mass panic and hunger, but they do appear to have paid off.  

Jordan has recently begun reopening after a month of lockdown. Small businesses and construction firms are allowed to operate again, and people may drive their own cars during the day. All borders remain closed so there is currently no risk of Coronavirus spreading from Israel or the West Bank into Jordan. The border closures have proven useful for the countries, but the risk to Israelis and Palestinians from Jordan is low even if borders were to reopen.    


The situation now in Egypt is not as reassuring at is in Jordan but does not appear to be as bad as most countries in Western Europe or the US. As of May 1st, there have been 5,895 cases confirmed in Egypt and 406 deaths (population is 102 million). Having not travelled through its curve, cases continue to rise, though seemingly not exponentially. However, testing in Egypt has been very sparse. Jordan has tested around 9 times that of Egypt per capita, despite the much smaller outbreak. This means the situation in Egypt is likely far worse than the confirmed cases indicate, and health authorities cannot accurately track the virus.

There has been a lockdown in place in Egypt since mid-March like many other countries, but the lockdown has been much less strict than that in Jordan. Stores and businesses are allowed to remain open during the day and small construction firms remain operational, forcing workers to leave their homes to make a living. Despite the growing number of cases, last week the government decided to ease restrictions, allowing businesses to remain open later.

The combination of poor testing and a relatively relaxed lockdown puts Egypt at a higher risk of an escalating outbreak. Additionally, the Egyptian health system does not have the staff or supplies needed for a large-scale outbreak. This makes for a worrying state of affairs in the country. The border between Egypt and Israel remains closed, while the few people crossing at Rafah to Gaza are being put into forced quarantine on arrival. For the safety of Egyptians, Israelis and Palestinians alike, these measures are important and should continue as the pandemic progresses in Egypt.

Source for all COVID-19 numbers: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Prepared by Thomas Sweeney, APN Intern

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