Health Minister Hala Zayed has given an overview of the current situation of COVID-19 in Egypt where the daily figures recorded yesterday reached 801 cases and 43 deaths.
In a recent press conference held at the ministry headquarters in Cairo and attended by senior ministry officials, Dr Zayed said that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths recorded daily is less than that of the first wave, but that the last six weeks have seen a steady rise in these figures. The rise was especially noted in the south of Egypt, she said, starting with Fayoum some 100km southwest Cairo to Qena some 550km south of Cairo. Three other provinces in the Delta region are also among those displaying higher rates of COVID-19, these being Kafr al-Sheikh, Port Said, and Sharqiya. In all regions with high incidence of the disease, she said, the ministry has added more beds to its hospitals, also more intensive care beds, ventilators, and higher oxygen supply.
Dr Zayed said Egypt’s hospitals were prepared to accommodate increased numbers of cases, and that a daily meeting is held online between her aides and the directors of 376 hospitals nationwide that receive COVID-19 patients to coordinate efforts and answer the hospitals’ needs.
The Health Minister stressed the imperative need for all to adhere to protective measures and restrictions, especially during the holy Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, which begins 13 April. Ramadan is a month of intensive family gatherings and socialisation, shopping, feasting, and worship. “Relaxing restrictions during religious or social festivities,” she said, “only worsens the coronavirus situation. This was very obvious during Ramadan last year when we saw a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths.”
The Minister cited figures which showed a pronounced increase in the rates of the public frequenting shopping malls; restaurants and coffeeshops; supermarkets, grocery shops and pharmacies; as well as entertainment venues, compared to the same rates during March last year.
The WHO, Dr Zayed said, strongly recommends that protective measures and restrictions should be upheld despite the vaccine rollout. Hands should be regularly scrubbed, she said, masks always used and disposed off safely, surfaces constantly sanitised, social distancing strictly observed, home visits should be reduced, and closed or crowded places avoided.
The Health Minister advised the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and pregnant women to observe healthy eating, regular water drinking, and exercise, during the Ramadan hours which permit that.
As to worship in mosques during Ramadan, Dr Zayed said that cautionary measures include observing safe distances between worshippers, wearing masks, using personal prayer mats, and avoiding socialising. She said that people who used to set up “Ramadan breakfast tables” to feed the needy should replace the practice by sending meals to their homes to avoid crowding.
During the press conference, Dr Zayed talked about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in Egypt.
She said the Health Ministry has set up 350 vaccination centres nationwide and is continuing to expand the number. Egypt, she said, uses Sinopharm and AstraZeneca, and no adverse effects have been so far recorded in either case. Some 1.1 million individuals have applied to have the vaccine, Dr Zayed said. She pointed out that, in addition to vaccinating the priority high risk groups of medical teams, the elderly, and the medically vulnerable, Egypt is vaccinating workers in the tourist and hospitality sector, the Suez Canal, and EgyptAir; and will be ready to vaccinate Egyptians who wish to do the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, once Saudi Arabia announces the health requirements needed. The vaccines are free for all.
Egypt, Dr Zayed said, will be producing the vaccine Sinopharm through coordination with its Chinese producer Sinovac and Egypt’s holding company for vaccines and sera VACSERA. She said two production lines will manufacture the vaccine, one at a 20 million dose per year capacity, the other at 60 million. This would make the vaccine accessible not only to Egypt, but to Arab and African countries as well.
The Health Minister thanked China’s people and government for their constant support in battling COVID-19, their vaccine donations to Egypt, and for the technology transfer that allows Egypt to manufacture the vaccine locally. She said Egypt has already received more than 600,000 doses of Sinopharm, and is scheduled to receive another 900,000 in the upcoming days. She also thanked GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, for providing Egypt with the first batch of vaccine, explaining that during the coming four weeks Egypt would have been handed a quarter of its 4.5 million doze quota.
Finally, Dr Zayed called upon Egyptians to self isolate if they display any COVID-19 symptoms, and to go to the nearest Health Ministry hospital when needed. They may call the hotline 105 for answers to queries, or 1440 to follow up on cases treated at home.