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The China-Mediterranean Observer: Rising Alarm Across MENA About the Economic Impact of COVID-19

Algerian municipal workers disinfect the Kherrouba bus station against the coronavirus COVID-19, in Algiers on March 16, 2020. RYAD KRAMDI / AFP

In February, the number of COVID-19 cases was still limited in the Mediterranean region. Hence, the media of the countries in the wider Mediterranean region mostly focused on the economic impact of the virus. Interestingly, some commentators in the Gulf, framed the appearance of the virus as a sign of divine punishment.

China’s Economic Slowdown

We found expressions of concern regarding the impact of the Chinese economic slowdown due to COVID-19 in Greek, Spanish, Italian, Moroccan, Israeli, Spanish, and Jordanian media. This is, if the data that we collected in our website were not clear enough, a testament to China’s centrality in the economy of many countries of the region. Essentially, commentators are worried about two issues. First, since tourism is an important industry for many countries, the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government and the cancellation of many flights to and from China is seen as a tremendous economic threat. Second, China is one of the top suppliers of a variety of goods to Mediterranean countries. The prolonged stop of Chinese manufacturers caused by the quarantine in China will have long-lasting effects in terms of productivity of local companies and eventually cause unemployment. While in Israel it seems that the main problem consists of a delay in the arrival of goods bought online, there is the fear that a substantial number of Jordanian companies will have to stop their work as their Chinese suppliers are unable to produce the components that they need. The activities in the Port of Piraeus, too, are suffering for the same reasons.

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