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Coronavirus cases spreading in Middle East

Coronavirus is becoming not only a public health problem but also a centre of discord in diplomacy and international relations between countries.

Countries around the world are implementing policies to combat the spread of the virus.

One of the countries that have decided to apply stricter controls is certainly Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is suspending tourist visa entry from countries where the Coronavirus is spreading, as announced by the Foreign Minister. Saudi Arabia has also decided to deny travel to Mecca and Medina (the holiest sites of Islam) for an indefinite time.

This policy choice shows the high level of alert and concern about a possible spread of the virus. Every year 2.3 million Muslims from all parts of the world travel to the two holy cities for Islam: Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran (the second country most affected by Coronavirus after China), and Indonesia.

Indonesia is one of the countries most affected by these limitations, in fact, out of 260 million people, 87% are Muslim and sends about one million people on the pilgrimage every year to the kingdom.

Following the decision by the Saudi monarchy, the Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi asked Saudi Arabia to allow the Indonesians to continue their Umrah pilgrimage.

These restrictive policies will undoubtedly have an impact on the gross domestic product but never as much as those caused slashing oil supplies to China. In fact, Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil exporter, is reducing crude oil supplies to China by at least 500,000 barrels per day (BPD). This is due to slower refinery demand following the outbreak of the Coronavirus, which has caused a sharp slowdown in China’s industry and economy.

China usually consumes 1.8 million BPD to 2 million BPD of Saudi Arabian crude oil. These numbers clearly show how strongly Chinese consumption has slowed down.

Adding diplomatic tension, due to the Coronavirus, in the Middle East area is also the new measure implemented by the Iranian government.

The Iranian government, as reported by IRNA (The Islamic Republic News Agency), has decided to ban all Chinese citizens from entering Iran.

Every action corresponds to a reaction, so let us expect substantial diplomatic and economic repercussions between the various countries involved.

By, Michele Brunori

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