SIM Report: Middle East and Central Asia, 8


Regional: Evaluating the short-medium term impact of COVID-19 on security and mobility issues

Broad access to different coronavirus vaccines remains crucial for a full easing of lockdown restrictions over the 12-month outlook and a chance for accelerated economic recovery across the Middle East and North Africa. However, significant country-to-country discrepancies exist, which risk further prolonging the impact of COVID-19. Influencing factors notably include a country’s GDP, it’s level of urbanisation, and broad access to infrastructural resources. By example, Lebanon only just commenced its vaccine campaign on 14 February, marking a two-month lag to the UAE, which commenced its campaign on 14 December. High-income countries across the region such as UAE, Bahrain are Israel are far ahead, the latter two holding the highest vaccination rates per capita in the world. In addition, recent data from Bahrain indicates that there is now an average of 3.49 vaccination doses per 100 individuals.

Below is a list of various regional countries and when they began their vaccination campaigns.

Lower-middle income countries:

13 January 2021 – Jordan launches Sinopharm & Pfizer-BioNTech
25 January 2021  – Egypt launches Sinopharm
28 January 2021 – Morocco launches Sinopharm
30 January 2021 – Algeria launches Sputnik-V
14 February 2021  – Lebanon launches Pfizer-BioNTech

High income countries:

14 December 2020 – UAE launches Sinopharm
16 December 2020  – Bahrain launches Sinopharm
17 December 2020 – Saudi Arabia launches Pfizer-BioNTech
20 December 2020 – Israel launches Pfizer-BioNTech
23 December 2020   –  Qatar launches Pfizer-BioNTech
24 December 2020  –  Kuwait launches Sinopharm & Pfizer-BioNTech
27 December 2020 – Oman launches Pfizer-BioNTech

SECURITY OUTLOOK

The region’s security situation has been shaped by the pandemic in a number of ways that will likely continue over the short-medium term outlook. Anti-lockdown protests across Lebanon have ramped up over the past 8 weeks amid an increasingly tense anti-government atmosphere that has been fuelled by the imposition of further restrictions on businesses and the movement of people. Violent demonstrations have occurred across the urban centres of Tripoli and Beirut with protesters attempting to storm government buildings, pelting security forces with stones and blocking the surrounding roads with burning vehicle over the course of several nights in late January. 

This activity is likely to subside in correlation with the easing of lockdown measures and rolling out of a nationwide vaccine campaign over the coming month. The first move to relax restrictions is currently in the process of being implemented, notably including the resumption of operations across key industries alongside the reopening of staple businesses such as supermarkets. However, the impact of such restrictions has further crippled Lebanon’s deteriorating economy where support mechanisms and stimulus packages have been largely inaccessible, leaving much of the population without any means of income support. 

Political instability continues to worsen amid ongoing discord among leaders over the formation of a new government, which has worked to further delay the implementation of urgently needed reforms. It is unlikely that a political solution will be found in the short-term, meaning the Lebanese population are set to continue without effective support against the economic effects of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. Protest activity in response to this is therefore likely to continue ramping up over the coming months, concentrated in urban centres and involving violent clashes between police and protesters.


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