Coronavirus: Egypt quarantines villages in 10 governorates

The Egyptian Ministry of Health announced on Saturday evening that it has put villages in 10 governorates under quarantine to fight the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). Observers considered that these measures are a worrying indication of the spread of coronavirus, in greater numbers than has been announced. Health Ministry Spokesman Khalid Mujahid said the villages will be under quarantine for 14 days. He did not, however, specify which villages they were. The state will attend to the needs of residents in the quarantined areas, he added. The death toll from the virus rose on Saturday to 36 in Egypt, after six, including an Italian citizen, died from the virus, according to health officials. This was reported by Mujahid on the Sada el-Balad TV show. The Egyptian official did not give any details about the quarantined villages or cities. Mujahid said that the ministry will quarantine these villages for 14 days after a number of consecutive infections were reported, indicating that the quarantine prevents it spreading in the community or spreading to the village or whole city. He stated that all state agencies will participate in this quarantine by reducing visits, ensuring individuals remain at home for 14 days, and following preventive instructions. The health spokesman explained that the Ministry of Social Solidarity is providing for these families, saying that the Ministry of Interior will also ensure their security. Egyptian authorities announced measures to limit the spread of the virus with a night curfew on the whole country. All restaurants have been closed and work in government departments suspended. In an attempt to reassure Egyptians, Mujahid said that the quarantine in the villages is just a precaution to prevent the emerging coronavirus.

Egyptian journalists have expressed strong anger at the Ministry of Health data, which is usually vague, and does not contain any details. For example, the Egyptian Ministry of Health did not provide any details about the exact number of villages, nor the names of the 10 governorates. In all the statements issued by the Ministry of Health about the numbers of infected or deaths, it did not indicate the numbers of infected people in each governorate, but rather mentioned the number in total every time. Although the names of the governorates have not been announced, it is certain that among those governorates are the Red Sea (southeast), Minya (south), Menoufia (north), and Port Said (northeast). This means that almost all parts of the country have hotspots.

Egypt has now officially registered 656 people, including 41 deaths, and 132 recoveries. These official numbers have been met with widespread suspicion by Canadian researchers who said that the real numbers exceeded thousands. A team of researchers in infectious diseases at the Canadian University of Toronto said that they estimate the number of people infected with coronavirus in Egypt as 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 has 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.