Egypt steps up battle to prevent spread of COVID-19 pandemic

The number of hospitals receiving coronavirus patients has already increased to 30 from 26.
Sunday 05/04/2020
Workers are seen in a factory that produces sterilised surgical equipment and medical clothings in Sadat, Egypt, March 15. (Reuters)
Looming crisis. Workers are seen in a factory that produces sterilised surgical equipment and medical clothings in Sadat, Egypt, March 15. (Reuters)

CAIRO - Egypt is still struggling to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among its citizens as more people tested positive for the virus. Despite a night-time nationwide curfew imposed since March 25, the populous Arab country reported, on April 2, 86 new infections, the highest in seven weeks.

The new cases brought the overall number of cases in the country up 865.

Egypt also reported six new coronavirus deaths on the same day, which brought the total number of fatalities to 58. This report came as health authorities took additional measures to limit coronavirus infections, amid national fears of an outbreak.

This is especially true after Egyptian authorities had to impose a total lockdown on a number of villages, including in the Nile Delta provinces of Gharbia and Menoufia, after dozens of villagers tested positive for the virus.

The authorities also imposed a lockdown on a number of residential buildings in the Suez Canal city of Port Said after some of its residents tested positive for coronavirus.

Over the past six weeks, Egypt reported an average of 35 new infections every day, which was viewed as an acceptable rate by health authorities.

Nonetheless, the April 2 infections set off the alarm over a possible growth in the number of cases in the coming period.

Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouli appealed to citizens to abide by restrictions on movement imposed by his government and by the night-time curfew.

So far, the number of infections is still within controllable limits, the Egyptian premier said at a press briefing via videoconference on April 2.

However, Madbouli said his government fears that the number of infections would be in the hundreds or in the thousands. He expected the number of cases to rise in the coming period.

So far, there are seven infections among every 1 million Egyptians. This is remarkably low, compared with the rate in other regional states where there are between 17 and 500 infections among every 1 million people, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population.

Egypt’s fatality rate is 0.4 per every 1 million people, which is much lower than the regional virus fatality rate which averages between one and 37 per every 1 million people, the ministry said.

Health authorities moved ahead with the disinfection of hundreds of buildings, streets and facilities across the country.

So far, more than 7,500 buildings, including government administrative buildings and tourist facilities, were decontaminated by different state agencies, including by the Chemical Warfare Division of the Egyptian Army.

Although the national hospital capacity has coped with the current number of infections, Egypt has started increasing this capacity in preparation for worst-case scenarios, specifically of the spread of contagion among more people.

The number of hospitals receiving coronavirus patients has already increased to 30 from 26.

The Ministry of Health will also send 1,000 mobile clinics to the vicinity of major development projects and industrial zones to offer health services to workers in these areas.

Nevertheless, there are calls for imposing a nationwide lockdown, against the background of fears that the lack of abidance on the part of members of the public in some cities can contribute to exacerbating the situation.

Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad said the government did not need to impose a full lockdown on the country.

“The current night-time curfew has succeeded in trimming the movement of the public,” Saad said. “Nevertheless, the whole thing will depend on the number of infections we will confirm in the coming days.”

Health specialists warn, however, that the fact that some ordinary people take the disease lightly can open the door for catastrophes in the coming days.

“The failure of some people to take the disease more seriously can lead to an increase in infections,” said Magdy Morshid, a member of the Committee on Health in the Egyptian parliament. “Abidance by the public by social distancing calls will decide whether we will reach a safe shore or enter the danger zone.”

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