Second wave of COVID-19 hits Egypt amid governmental inaction

It seems that the official announcement of the start of the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic in Egypt has been delayed, as citizens touched the danger about a month ago with the frequent discovery of infections that reached famous people, artists, and soccer players.

According to the officially announced figures, the daily cases of infection rates did not exceed 200 during the past three months, but it was sometimes less than 100 cases. However, over the past two weeks, it gradually increased to more than 360 infections over several days, over the past week. With the high number of daily infections and deaths, the Ministry of Health announced, days ago, that the country had entered the second wave of the coronavirus.

The American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also raised the assessment of the pandemic’s seriousness in Egypt to its highest stage, which is the fourth level. Faced with this, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for adherence to preventive measures, warning of the increasing spread of the virus.

Al-Sisi warned the Egyptians of the increase in corona infections, saying that “the epidemic is continuing, and our concern must continue, as well as our measures to protect ourselves,” noting that awareness is the real vaccine and the basis for the confrontation now. He added, “During the first wave, we took many measures, and we were forced to partially close, and we do not want to reach that again,” calling on people not to be indoors for long periods, to commit to social distancing and wearing masks.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly also spoke about the danger of the new wave compared to the first. He stressed the application of the penalties prescribed in the law when violating the precautionary measures and called on the various ministries to take appropriate measures according to the conditions and nature of its work to reduce crowding in the workplace and to give priority to workers with chronic diseases. He directed to reduce the number of workers in government departments and agencies and temporarily suspend work in some agencies, such as courts, with the provision of thermometers, provide the necessary needs of disinfection materials, and circulate the instructions within the various headquarters for awareness. He also directed to limit citizens’ movement, limit gatherings, strengthen medical infrastructure, provide supplies and strategic goods, return Egyptians stranded abroad, raise media awareness, and confront rumours.

However, Egyptians still fear a repeat of the experience of the first wave of the pandemic, which saw overcrowding in hospitals, and the lack of beds in intensive care departments that would suffice for cases in need of care. Faced with this, the Ministry of Health issued a statement containing messages to reassure citizens, confirming the availability of all medical supplies in all government hospitals and that there is a sufficient strategic stockpile of them.

The ministry announced the formation of a central crisis room to follow up the hospitals’ workflow, provide medical teams with clinical support through medical consultations to deal with infected cases and treatment protocols, with the intensification of training programmes in fever and isolation hospitals. The government also announced the injection of EGP 11 billion to support the medical sector and meet urgent needs and allocate EGP 2.8 billion to increase the medical profession allowance by 75 per cent.

However, the anti-virus vaccine does not seem to be available soon, despite some international pharmaceutical companies’ announcement that they have discovered and approved vaccines for the virus. Despite the reassuring government statements regarding the imminence of obtaining and providing them, al-Sisi was decisive when he confirmed that the vaccine would not be available in the country until next September, considering that the real vaccine in the current period is awareness.

The Minister of Health, Hala Zayed, announced the reservation of 20 per cent of Egypt’s needs from the corona vaccine, which is produced by the American company Pfizer, and 30 per cent of the Oxford vaccine in Britain. Still, she did not specify a date for its arrival. The government sought to take the case to a religious dimension, to issue a fatwa that the obligation to wear protective masks against the virus is a “legitimate obligation,” especially in public places, to preserve souls and ward off evil. In televised statements, Egyptian Cabinet Spokesman Nader Saad, also stressed applying a fine for not wearing masks in public places and transportation, which reaches a maximum of EGP 4,000.

The doctors’ crisis remains at the forefront of the government’s challenges, and it does not stop at work pressures and the low financial compensation only, but has also reached a high rate of infection among them compared to global rates. The former Undersecretary of the Medical Union, Mona Mina, previously revealed that the percentage of doctors in Egypt is about three per cent of the total infected, while in a country such as England, it is 0.5 per cent. The number of doctors who died from coronavirus reached 208, and they were the ones who had swabs.

It is noteworthy that Egypt only announces the tested infections, or what is known as the (CPR) analysis, which is a financially costly analysis, and many cannot do it. That point was made to me by Professor of Internal Medicine at Kasr al-Aini and former head of the National Committee for Diabetes Control, Salah al-Ghazali Harb, who said that the number of daily injuries and deaths announced by the government is “unrealistic.” Harb confirmed the rapid increase in the number of infected people, especially with the seasonal influenza season’s entry, pointing to a severe confusion between the two cases, even among doctors, which calls for raising the level of preparation in all hospitals. He warned against underestimating the second wave of the epidemic and continued that “what we have all seen in recent election conferences should never be repeated in many places for some candidates, unfortunately throwing out all the health instructions.” The professor of internal diseases expressed his surprise at the Minister of Health’s recent statements regarding that research showed an increase in the number of people infected with the virus at home compared to those outdoors.