A Middle East coronavirus web resource has global resonance

A Middle East coronavirus web resource has global resonance
One of the most popular websites for monitoring activity relating to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus comes from the Middle East region. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 26 September 2020

A Middle East coronavirus web resource has global resonance

A Middle East coronavirus web resource has global resonance
  • Corona Meter is a free resource that attracts tens of thousands of visitors every day from across the world
  • Building the coronameter.co website took the team of developers a few days from conception to launch

DUBAI: One of the most popular websites for monitoring activity relating to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus comes from this very region. Launched in March, coronameter.co is a free resource that attracts tens of thousands of visitors every day, getting traffic from as far afield as Argentina and India.

Using daily data from the renowned Johns Hopkins University in the US, the website displays a vast array of statistics presented for easy comprehension.

Data includes the total number of confirmed cases, mortality rates and infection doubling time in the preceding seven days, all broken down by country. A time-lapse graph shows how the disease initially struck China, Iran and Italy before the US, Brazil and Britain became the worst affected nations.

There is also a globe that enables users to click on any country and see its COVID-19 statistics.

“It all started when the (World Health Organization) classified the coronavirus as a pandemic because, at that point, I knew it was going to be something for the long run. We had this urge to stay on top of it,” said Paris-based entrepreneur Amr Sobhy.




Paris-based entrepreneur Amr Sobhy who founded wesbite Corona Meter. (Supplied)

The 31-year-old talked with his friend and Corona Meter co-creator Mohamed Reda Eldehiry about their approach. Building the website took the team a few days from conception to launch, although the original idea has been expanded steadily, with more data points and graphics added.

“It’s a perpetual work in progress,” Sobhy said. “We wanted to provide something reliable in Arabic. Once we had enough data, we wanted to use (it) to answer the questions we thought were important.

“I wanted to see how the pandemic was developing over time in order to understand the gravity of the situation. Once we had things up and running, I started adding interesting visualizations.”

Initially available in Arabic and English, the website is now also in Russian, Hindi, French, Italian and Spanish.

“It’s an automated data stream although we have to keep on updating the software because inevitably there are bugs due to it not being designed to run on every device,” Sobhy said.

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READ MORE: Egypt fitness startup eyes new market in coronavirus protective gear

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As the demands grew, another engineer, Osama Sayed, joined the team to help manage the website.

What sets this product apart from other international ones is that it is accessible in the region. “Once you get the data, the next step is to use it to give people something meaningful,” said Sobhy, who is also the founder and CEO of PushBots, which sold two software-as-a-service (SaaS) products to an Austrian company last year.

IPtrace gives applications users’ geolocation data, while CurrencyStack provides real-time exchange rates for over 150 currencies.

“There are a lot of ways to make digital products, and we from the MENA region can compete globally,” he said. “Code is a building block to solve problems. It’s not an end but a means.”




Corona Meter co-creator Mohamed Reda Eldehiry. (Supplied)

He believes the success of Corona Meter shows that the people of the Middle East can create products and services that will resonate globally.

“What I could see us do more in MENA is to use existing technologies to answer our own questions because otherwise, we’re just hoping that someone else does it for us,” Sobhy said.

“With technology comes the empowerment that we don’t have to wait. We can actually do it ourselves.”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017
Updated 4 sec ago

Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017
  • An EgyptAir flight took off from Doha to Cairo today, making it the first commercial flight in three and a half years between both countries
  • It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE

DOHA: The first direct flights since 2017 between Qatar and its former rivals Egypt and the UAE took to the skies on Monday, following the end of a regional crisis.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of being too close to Iran and of backing Islamic extremists, charges Doha denies.
The quartet agreed to heal the rift at a Gulf summit on January 5 in Saudi Arabia, after a flurry of diplomatic activity by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.
The first commercial flight from Qatar to Egypt in three and a half years, an EgyptAir service to Cairo, took off from windswept Doha airport.
It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE.
The resumption of flights from Doha to Cairo will simplify travel for the large contingent of Egyptians living in Qatar.
As many as 300,000 Egyptians call Qatar home, according to official statistics, but many were unable to travel home during the crisis.
In May 2020, frustrated Egyptians protested outside the compound housing Egypt’s then-empty embassy.
Following the demonstration, 18 repatriation flights operated via neutral Oman to comply with Cairo’s ban on direct air traffic.
A Qatar Airways plane was due to also make the trip to Cairo later Monday.
Flights between Doha and Saudi Arabia, which has also opened its land border to Qatar, resumed on January 11.
The row complicated regional travel, divided families and raised costs faced by Qatari businesses.
Mustafa Ahmed, 38, an Egyptian technical engineer, said he was “very happy.”
“With direct flights, life will be easier, especially for families and children, avoiding the torment of changing airports and planes and waiting for hours for transit flights,” he told AFP.
Egyptians in Qatar work in a number of sectors including education, health care and engineering.
Thousands of Qatar’s majority-expatriate workforce, however, have lost their jobs as a result of a downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic.