• This daily round-up brings you a selection of the latest news updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top stories: Cases in India top 600,000, California closes bars, and WHO spotlight on COVID-19 in the Eastern Mediterranean.

1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe

2. WHO: MENA at a "critical threshold"

Countries that are already struggling with humanitarian emergencies in the Middle East have been "engulfed" by coronavirus, says Dr Ahmad Al-Mandhari, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking at a media briefing on 1 July, Dr Al-Mandhari painted a picture of how COVID-19 in impacting the region, which comprises much of the Middle East and North Africa and is the third most affected after the Americas and Europe.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

"We are at a critical threshold in our region," he warned. "Today some countries are beginning to ease restrictions, but there is real risk we will see further increases in cases even in countries where the situation seems to be stabilising."

There have been at least a million cases in the region, Dr Al-Mandhari said, and there were more in June alone than in the months from January to the end of May.

All countries are experiencing cluster or community transmission, with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan the worst-affected, making up more than 50% of cases in the region.

Almost 87% of all deaths reported are from five countries: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan.

He said that although there is a gradual steadying of cases and deaths are plateauing, it is a "race against the clock" to protect lives.

Number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) deaths in Iran from February 19 to June 12, 2020
Iran has one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Image: Statista

'Avoidable deaths'

"Half of all countries face humanitarian emergencies, millions of people live in camps, health services are devastated by years of war and health workers and medicines are in very short supply.

"People are simply dying of diseases that are treatable under normal conditions. These are avoidable deaths and now COVID-19 has engulfed the region, making things worse," Dr Al-Mandhari said.

Problems with testing and reporting has meant limited available data in conflict-affected countries, but Dr Al-Mandhari said the WHO is working under the assumption it is widespread.

Those living in camps and the region's considerable migrant workforce are the most vulnerable, so the WHO is working to make sure they're protected, he added.

"There is no option to fail. Some six months into the pandemic response, it is more critical now than ever that we do not disrupt essential services, such as immunisation programmes, treatment for people with chronic diseases or services for mothers and children.

"We still have a long and challenging role ahead. Everyone must have access to health, all governments must step up and help us face this challenge."

3. Four key pillars for returning to the office

With lockdowns lifting in some countries and companies beginning to plan a return to the workplace, organisations should focus on four key pillars to ensure a smooth transition, writes Mark Pringle, Senior Vice President of Corporate Real Estate, Global Facilities and Environment, Health and Safety at Dell Technologies.

These can also cement the conditions for greater innovation and flexibility:

1. A return-to-site risk assessment: Evaluate the infection rates, active cases, recovery and scaled increase trends of the country/specific location to determine how safe it is for team members to return to site.

2. Pre-opening readiness: Assess and prepare for team members to return to site while ensuring hygiene, social distancing, and infrastructure all support team member health and productivity.

3. A phased return to site: Start with those team members who are physically required to be onsite, and gradually move to those functions and people who prefer to come to their place of work, whilst also accommodating those who don’t feel comfortable to return.

4. Communication: Develop transparent and frequent communications to team members and communities that include efficient feedback loops.