A man wears a protective face mask amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a market in the old quarter Sanaa, Yemen, on March 18, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

The coronavirus threat has reached an alarming level in a matter of weeks. As it continues to spread to more regions across the world, the health systems in many countries are being overwhelmed, especially in the Arab world where the health infrastructure is likely to collapse if the rate of infection continues to rise. One country overwhelmed by the pandemic is a threat to the entire region.

In a recent statement to Gulf News, World Health Organisation (WHO) officials said that many Arab countries are not equipped to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Their health systems are inadequate to deal with the potential rise in infections. They called for regional and international cooperation to help these vulnerable countries.

The UAE and other Gulf states are reaching out to Arab countries that are in need of help. The evacuation of Arab nationals from China by the UAE is one example of such aid. However, the Arab League should take the lead in initiating a pan-Arab working plan to those who need help very badly.

The league should work with the council of Arab health ministers and the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) to initiate and coordinate this pan-Arab plan, which should aim to help health authorities in countries that need critical help.

There are also hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people across the Arab world. They understandably do not have access to medical care. They are at grave risk. These unfortunate people should be included in any initiative to combat the virus.

The coronavirus threat has yet to peak, according to health officials around the world, so it is high time the Arab League acted fast. There is no time to grapple with the usual bureaucracy of the organisation.

The league is often unable to deal with crises in the region due to the conflicting politics of the member states. However, the coronavirus threat should by beyond the region’s complicated politics. This is about the safety of all Arab countries.

Advanced countries in Europe and America are struggling to deal with the rapid rise in infections. They are being overwhelmed by the massive number of victims. More countries in the west are resorting to lockdowns to contain the disease. The situation in the region could be very grave if the numbers continue to rise, and they are expected to rise as more people are being tested. The Arab world must act now.