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Impact of Covid-19 on Gulf Challenges and Restrictions

As the world tries to cope with the negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the Gulf states in the Arabian Peninsula are feeling the pressure of increasing uncertainty regarding the future direction of the outbreak and the possible impacts that can be expected afterwards. While the Gulf states were successful in their response to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. Tense leaders cautiously anticipated the worst, realizing that the COVID-19 outbreak was creating a world in which rational decision-making in many states could be disrupted by a swift, even reckless, response to the virus.

The number of people infected with COVID-19 in the Gulf region remains limited, thanks to preventive measures and the strong health system that has been established in recent decades. Given its population, the number of deaths from COVID-19 has been very low in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. One of the most obvious reasons for the low mortality rate is the relatively organized health system in the GCC region. At the same time, given the apparent and continuing spread of the outbreak, the Gulf states are likely to face serious problems, given some structural deficiencies in the health system and other sectors.

Limitations in the healthcare sector

The main obstacles preventing the growth of qualified human resources in the health sector in the GCC countries are the dependence on expatriates, the lack of qualified doctors and health personnel from the GCC countries themselves, and the deficiencies in the provision of national health teams to the health sector.

According to data from the World Health Organization, the number of doctors and nurses is gradually increasing in all GCC countries. However, many doctors and nurses remain expatriates and not citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, with a percentage increasing to 85% in the United Arab Emirates and 78% in Saudi Arabia. The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) still need more health workers, especially nurses.

Since the health sector in the GCC countries lacks its own human resources and relies heavily on purchasing services from the expatriate workforce, the GCC countries run the risk of not reaching the number of people it needs . Some GCC countries pay their citizens for healthcare expenses in other countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, Malaysia and Singapore, which have more advanced facilities and qualified personnel in the healthcare sector. In the long term, it is imperative that the GCC countries have their own resources in the health sector if they want to overcome a potential crisis in the health sector, and Covid-19 was a test case for the GCC countries in this sense.

Each of the Gulf Cooperation Council states has established plans and targets in relation to their health sectors. These plans are often included in the long-term development agendas of these countries. In this context, one of the focus areas of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plan is to increase the number of medical facilities, as well as doctors and nurses. The Saudi government also plans to increase private sector participation in the health system. The UAE also has plans similar to those outlined in UAE Vision 2021. Similarly, Qatar National Vision 2030, Kuwait Vision 2035, and Oman Vision 2040 also include various goals aimed at creating a better healthcare sector in these countries.