The virus also highlighted a high volume of prejudice towards others. One Kuwaiti actress even called for the deportation of foreign workers. Hundreds of Saudi Twitter users made generalisations that the Sunni response was civilised and rational, while the Shia Irani response was idiotic. Some have even claimed that the virus and its spread were being funded by Qatar in order to undermine Riyadh's Vision 2030.

Deep internal polarisation has also increased across political lines as a result of the pandemic. In Lebanon, sectarian political parties’ elites saw the virus spreading as an opportunity to reconnect with their grassroots and reconcile some of their lost support, especially after October 2019.

In the Palestinian Territories, the spread of coronavirus added a new layer of division when the Hamas de facto administration refused to apply new emergency measures in the Gaza Strip implied by the state of emergency announced by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The political rift deepened further when it became clear that the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip was being less than upfront about its health measures, needs, and quarantine arrangements.

Some are more equal than others

At a socio-economic level, the pandemic has uncovered very deep inequalities in Middle Eastern societies. Without familial and societal solidarity, millions would be suffering from food shortages and homelessness. Though many argue that the virus has affected everyone equally, in reality, it is affecting the poor and the middle classes more than the rich and the politicians.

Patchy hygiene infrastructure, immune systems weakened by poor nutrition, and unequal access to healthcare all stem from economic inequality. In 2018 one study found the MENA region to be the most unequal region in the world. Moreover, inequality within a single country can be extreme. For instance, in Egypt, more than 32% of the country’s 100 million people live in poverty. In Lebanon, more than 40% of the population live in poverty.

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