Herd immunity: Has the Egyptian regime chosen a nightmare strategy?

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Egyptian sources have said that the Egyptian regime has chosen the herd immunity route in the face of the emerging coronavirus. Egyptian doctors affirmed that the last steps that the Egyptian regime started to follow mean, in practice, that the Egyptian regime no longer intends to restrict the spread of coronavirus. Egyptian doctors and specialists warned that this herd immunity scenario in Egypt means that the country is on the verge of a nightmare.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health and Population announced 358 new cases, the highest daily toll since the outbreak, in addition to 14 deaths. This is the highest daily number of infections recorded by Egypt, since the first case was discovered in mid-February. Friday’s infection number is 33 per cent higher than those recorded on Thursday, which amounted to 269, which was also the highest number of daily infections. The total number registered in Egypt as of Friday is 5,895 infections, including 1,460 cases that have been cured and discharged from isolation and quarantine hospitals, and 406 deaths.

The daily increase in coronavirus infection rates was supposed to cause alarm to the Egyptian authorities, and force it to take tougher measures. However, the reality is that the increasing number of cases of coronavirus infections comes in conjunction with the Egyptian government’s decision to relax preventative measures. The Egyptian authorities face a challenge given that the population stands at 104 million, many of whom live in rural areas along the Nile, and the fact that the country has a poor health system. The Egyptian government decided to reduce the length of the curfew, and to allow shops and malls to operate every day of the week.

The Egyptian Health Minister, Hala Zayed, announced what she described as “the general plan for coexistence” in light of the uncertainty regarding the timeframe for the continuation of the coronavirus crisis, during a government meeting on Wednesday morning. According to a statement published on the official page of the Council of Ministers, the “coexistence plan” is based on following all necessary precautions strictly and decisively in the various facilities (with almost complete reopening), with a reassessment of the epidemiological situation every 14 days. Observers say that these decisions mean that the Egyptian regime chose to resort to the herd immunity strategy.

Herd immunity is reached when the majority of the population (70-90 per cent) becomes immune to infectious diseases, either because of infection and recovery, or through vaccination.

An anti-corona vaccination is still a long way off, which means that the Egyptian regime wants to see between 70 million and 90 million people infected with coronavirus. Allowing coronavirus to reach a larger population means reaching herd immunity more quickly, but this also means that the number of infected people will be too large for hospitals to deal with. Egyptian doctors warn that, given the weak health system in Egypt, the option of herd immunity will be a disaster. According to official figures, there are 406 deaths out of 5,895 infections, meaning that the death rate is approximately 6.89 per cent.

Assuming that the Egyptian regime has resorted to “herd immunity” and that the number of infected people will reach only 70 million, and assuming that the health system in Egypt will not collapse, and the death rates will remain constant, this means that Egypt will witness more than 4,820 deaths, and if the numbers of infected or deaths rise, the number of deaths will be greater.

Doctors say that if the number of infected people reaches millions, the Egyptian health system will fail completely, and that the death rate may rise. Doctors note that countries like Britain with a strong health system had to retreat from the herd immunity theory after realising that their losses would be very heavy. In the case of a country like Egypt, with a weak health system, the situation will be a disaster.