(Bloomberg) --

The World Bank has revised upward its economic growth projections for the Middle East and North Africa to 2.8% this year from an earlier estimate of 2.2%, as vaccine campaigns gather pace and pandemic restrictions ease. 

The Washington-based lender now calculates the total cost of the pandemic at around $200 billion in terms of gross domestic product losses, according to its latest regional economic review published on Thursday. Growth in 2021 will still lag behind pre-pandemic levels and is seen at 4.2% next year, as some countries have been slower to address the public health crisis.  

The Middle East and North Africa was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic last year and, like the rest of the world, lockdown measures introduced to combat the spread of the virus left many of its economies in distress. Going forward, governments must ensure efficient vaccination campaigns to prevent public health from deteriorating once again, the report said. 

“The last two years have shown that pandemic control is essential not only to save lives but also to accelerate economic recovery, which is now tenuous and uneven across” the Middle East and North Africa, said Roberta Gatti, chief economist for the region. “Stressed health systems and lagging vaccinations in many middle-income and low-income countries in the region are harbingers of downside risks.”

Read: World Bank Sees MENA Debt Rising At Fastest Pace in 21st Century

The MENA region’s combined budget deficit is expected to reach 5.2% of GDP this year, before shrinking to 3.3% in 2022 as economies recover, the World Bank projected.

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