ANALYSIS: Israel vs the Arabs. Who’s Handling Corona Better?

The answer might surprise you. Israel is faring nearly as well as its neighbors

By Yochanan Visser | | Topics: Coronavirus
Coronavirus is being handled very differently in different parts of the Middle East.
Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90

While Israeli media has been covering the coronavirus crisis non-stop and the government is contemplating a complete week-long curfew on Israeli citizens, it’s time to see what the Arab countries are doing to contain the pandemic.



Let’s start with Egypt, which has reported no more than 366 Corona cases and 19 fatalities up till today.

This is a remarkably low number considering that Egypt has a population of more than 97 million people and that the Egyptian government has not enforced stringent measures.

Only on March 19 did Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly finally order that all restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, casinos, nightclubs, bars, malls, shops, and mobile food carts had to close their doors, but only from 7 PM until 6 AM each day until March 31.

Only last week, universities and schools were closed for two weeks. The same goes for all incoming and outgoing flights that were suspended on Thursday last week.

A fake Facebook page claiming it belonged to the information center of the Egyptian Interior Ministry announced on Sunday that the government had decided to impose a nationwide curfew, something that was quickly denied by officials.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Saturday made his first public appearance after being quarantined for two weeks on suspicion he had contracted COVID-19.

The President was forced into isolation after meeting with two Egyptian generals who later died of the Coronavirus. Some foreign reporters think the scope of the Corona crisis in Egypt is much larger than the government is reporting, with many Corona cases in the Egyptian military.

The relatively mild measures of el-Sisi’s government are related to Egypt’s ailing economy, which could totally collapse if the country were to adopt the approach of Jordan’s King Abdullah II.



Abdullah last week imposed a three-day-long nation-wide curfew on Jordan’s population, which has now be extended to an open-ended one.

Sirens blared in Jordan last Saturday when the curfew came into effect and combat units of the Jordanian army were seen enforcing the measure. Anyone who breaches the curfew could be shot dead or jailed without trial, Israeli media reported.

In Jordan, too, the economy will be damaged badly by the Corona crisis, with the government no longer able to repay debts or to help the poor that make up a significant part of the population.

Jordan’s government has now started to deliver food packages to people’s doorsteps and announced an aid package of only $22 million for poor families. Analysts say that the Corona crisis constitutes the most serious threat to Jordan’s economy since the founding of the state.



Then there is Lebanon that also faces an unprecedented economic crisis that has already resulted in a default on the payment of Eurobonds in US dollars and now has to cope with the Corona outbreak.

At least 248 Lebanese citizens have been infected with the COVID-19 virus and four deaths have been confirmed. This data could be false, however, since Hezbollah, which is effectively controlling Lebanon, hides cases of the virus in its ranks.

As in Jordan and Egypt, the Lebanese army has been deployed to enforce a public lockdown with army helicopters hovering over neighborhoods of the Lebanese capital Beirut and warning the population to stay home via loudspeakers.

The Lebanese government is admitting that it has failed to contain the crisis and that it is not able to compensate companies and citizens who have lost their jobs (200,000 as of today).

The Lebanese Health Ministry warned that the worst has yet to come and admits that its health system is unable to deal with a large number of COVID-19 patients.


Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, too, the Government of King Salman has implemented a nation-wide curfew for the next three weeks. People who fail to comply with the order face jail time and a fine of $2,663, which will be doubled if violators are caught for a second time.

The oil-rich kingdom has reported 562 cases of Coronavirus and 19 fatalities, and recently closed the Muslim holy sites in Mecca and Medina.



In Syria, the government of dictator Bashar al-Assad is hiding the full scope of the Corona crisis with Health Minister Nizar al-Yaziji confirming just one case of COVID-19 in a 20-year-old woman.

Only the Kurdish autonomous region has been placed under a full lockdown and anti-government sources say the number of infected people is much higher than Assad’s regime is reporting, especially among the Iran-backed militias that receive funds, weapons and training from Iran’s Quds Force, which has been hard-hit by the Coronavirus.

A Corona outbreak on the scale of Israel’s will be catastrophic for Syria, where 11 million people have been displaced and more than 550,000 people have been killed in the now more than 9-year-old civil war.

The United Nations as well as humanitarian aid organizations in Syria say that the country’s health system will not be able to deal with the pandemic since many hospitals and clinic have been bombed to smithereens by Assad’s army in order to deprive rebels of medical treatment.



In most Arab countries people are defying government measures that limit their freedom of movement, and this explains the curfews and the deployment of army units in some places.

In Morocco, for example, the army used force to arrest large groups of curfew violators who chanted that Allah would protect them from the deadly virus.

Three people have died and the government in Morocco claims only 108 cases of Coronavirus in the country of 35 million. Morocco has only two Corona screening facilities and no more than 1,642 intensive care beds.



Generally speaking, Israel is doing much worse than those Arab countries that are honest about their numbers of infected and dead. This has a lot to do with the Jewish state’s unwillingness or inability to implement a total, military-enforced lockdown as the Arabs have.

Health facilities and hospitals in Israel, furthermore, don’t test visitors for signs of the Coronavirus, such as fever,when they enter those facilities, as this reporter recently discovered.


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