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  • Writer's pictureLeon Grice

Middle East mix

The Middle East is a contrast of COVID-19 stories. So here is the heatmap for the region from our COVID19 modeller: from 24 August.

Some countries' data is hard to interpret because their reporting of daily case numbers lacks the randomness found in real world data. Other countries have Reff curves which follow more familiar patterns to Europe and US States. But overall there is a resurgence of COVID-19's reproduction rates and corresponding daily cases with Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, West Bank and Gaza, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates all reporting Reff rates above 1.0. We won't be reporting on them all, but have sampled five countries for a quick review. Remember, above 1.0 and the disease is spreading as a pandemic and below 1.0 it is falling.

Iraq and UAE

So let's look at Iraq and UAE with the graphs taken from the modeller. Iraq has Reff=1.3 and 3,965 cases on 22 August, and UAE has Reff=1.6 and 390 cases on 23 August. UAE successfully managed to get its Reff under 1.0 for an extended period from late May but on 8 August it went above the redline (1.0). Right on cue, 14 days later case numbers can be seen to increase. With its Reff curve increasing we can expect new daily cases to continue to grow. In contrast, Iraq hasn't had Reff below 1.0 since 14 April and it shows in the growth in new daily cases.

Turkey's flattish curve

Turkey's data and graphs have remarkably consistent new daily case numbers and Reff numbers. We calculated Reff=1.2 on 23 August with 1,217 daily cases reported. Turkey breached Reff=1.0 on 31 July. Other countries in the region have this type of consistent data reporting and it doesn't seem to correspond to expected patterns of pandemic exponential increase or decrease. We do not investigate how countries report their data and take it on face value from the European Centre for Disease Control or the Johns Hopkins database. However we note that in April this year the New York Times reported that Turkey's death rate did not correspond to its COVID-19 data.

Go to our modeller to explore the data of countries in the region to come to your own conclusions.

Israel and Lebanon

These two neighbours tell two different stories in their data. Israel's Reff=1.2 on 23 August and reported 730 daily cases. (Note that the 23 August is a Sunday and the data shows a 6+1 day pattern indicating reduced testing on the Sabbath. Monday case data tends to be twice the Sunday case numbers.) Israel was hit by a second wave that started on 24 May with Reff>1.0. That second wave subsided when Reff<1.0 on 1 August but two weeks later on 13 August it went above 1.0 again. This suggests that the second wave is not over and new daily cases can expect to increase for the next 10-14 days.

While Israel has been able to show it can suppress COVID-19, Lebanon's Reff has not been below the 1.0 redline since 27 April 2020. On 23 August, Lebanon's Reff was 2.0 and daily cases stood at 507. At this sustained level of COVID-19 reproduction, Lebanon can expect a doubling of daily cases within the next 10-14 days. Lebanon has already had a terribly tough time with extreme political and economic crises and a horrific port explosion that made 250,000 people instantly homeless. There may be a correlation between the increase in Reff after the 4 August explosion and the inevitable reduction in social distancing in Beirut as families fled and emergency services responded.

We'll keep blogging what our Reff method shows and you can visit our website to explore any country in the world. Our method is unique, sensitive and accurate.

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