Coronavirus in Egypt: The worst is yet to come

While workers and small business owners in Egypt expressed their outrage at the repercussions of the novel coronavirus because of the losses caused by the curfew, Egyptian officials have warned that the worst is yet to come. The Minister of State for Media and Information, Osama Heikal, said that the Egyptian government is preparing to make schools into hospitals, in order to accommodate the number of people infected. The Egyptian regime says that the number of people infected with coronavirus has reached 456, with 21 deaths and 95 recoveries, but Canadian researchers at the University of Toronto said that the real numbers are much greater and that they have reached thousands. The team of researchers in infectious diseases at the Canadian University of Toronto said that the estimates of the number of people infected with coronavirus in Egypt ranged between 6,000 and 45,000. Infectious disease specialists from the University of Toronto, who studied the discrepancy between official and likely infection rates in places such as Iran, gave a grim picture of the possible spread of the virus in Egypt. Using a combination of flight data, traveller data and injury rates they said the size of the catastrophe in Egypt was estimated at 19,310. Although the Egyptian regime denied these figures, it has recently started taking measures that suggest that the virus is spreading widely in the country, far more than declared cases suggest.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health allocated one hospital for medical isolation in the country at the beginning of the spread of coronavirus, but recently announced they had increased this to five hospitals, and then began preparations to transform schools into hospitals. During his last conference, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that the number of people infected with coronavirus may record leaps of several thousand if people do not comply with procedures. Despite strict measures, the numbers of people infected with coronavirus have continued to rise. Experts have said that these measures were implemented too late. Observers see official preparations and al-Sisi’s statements as a prelude to announcing large numbers of people infected with the virus. Observers expect that the Egyptian regime is heading for tougher measures that may cause long-term economic damage. Economists point to the collapse of the tourist season, in addition to the decline in the passage of ships through the Suez Canal due to the decline in global trade and the withdrawal of investors from the Egyptian market. But Egyptians fear a worse scenario than just an economic crisis. They know that the health system in Egypt is weak, and that public hospitals are not prepared to receive a wave of patients with coronavirus.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health announced the closure of outpatient clinics in all hospitals nationwide, claiming to prevent overcrowding and mixing among patients. The ministry also decided to distribute medical teams in these clinics to medical units and centres. Many poor people depend on these clinics to treat their patients, because their costs are very low compared to going to a doctor’s office. Egyptians fear that any outbreak of the virus in the country will mean a real catastrophe, as it means severe damage to thousands of patients with chronic diseases who need public hospitals. Observers point out that any widespread spread of coronavirus means a human tragedy 10 times worse than what is happening in Italy or even Iran. The Egyptian health system is 10 times weaker than Italy’s, for example. Increased infections in Egypt indicate that there are still unknown cases of people infected with coronavirus, and these cases are still infecting others. While doctors and experts have called for a complete closure and a total curfew for 14 days to avoid a catastrophe, official sources say that the state cannot afford a similar procedure, neither economically, nor in terms of medical and procedural preparations.