Egypt: COVID-19 Updates

Between 3rd Wave of Pandemic and Appearance of Black Fungus
An Egyptian medical worker administers help people to receiving an Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on March 4, 2021 at Qattameya's medical center in Cairo on the first day of vaccination in Egypt. (Getty)

From 3 January 2020 to 1 June 2021, there have been 262,650 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 15,096 deaths in Egypt. As of 29 May 2021, a total of 2,586,274 vaccine doses have been administered, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the first days of June, Egypt’s reported coronavirus cases fell below 1,000 for the first time since April 26, 2021.

With the beginning of March, and following up with the holy month of Ramadan, Egypt witnessed an increase in the cases of COVID-19 which made the government impose restrictions again to curb the spread of the virus. Mostafa Madbouli, the Egyptian prime minister said in a televised news conference that Egypt was in the grip of the third wave of the pandemic, urging people to follow the precautions and register for vaccination.

Despite the government's call and banning public gatherings during Ramadan, most people did not take the situation as seriously as they did before and numbers increased due to family and friends’ gatherings. Authorities say lack of awareness was probably also because the media itself did not highlight the issue enough and spread awareness compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

The ongoing increase in the confirmed cases made the government announced a partial shutdown of malls and restaurants from 9 pm until May 21 and call off festivities for the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr.

 "You have a responsibility not just for yourself but also your family, we are in a critical stage," Madbouly said.

-(L to R) Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed gives a press conference, accompanied by doctor Abdelmouim Selem and medical staff member Ahmed Hemdan, in a tent set up outside the Abou Khalifa hospital, in Ismailia, Egypt, on January 24, 2021.(Getty)

VACCINATION TRAIL

Egypt's vaccination campaign began in January by vaccinating medical staff, people over the age of 65, and those with chronic illnesses. Then registration was opened to all. The Egyptian Ministry of Health has opened 40 centers across the country to receive vaccines and continued to increase the number to 400 centers till date.

On the 28th of February, the Ministry of Health launched a website to register citizens' requests for vaccinations, and the process of vaccinating them has already begun on the 4th of March.

Egypt is currently using China's Sinopharma vaccine and the UK's AstraZeneca vaccine. The Ministry of Health announced that it will soon begin locally producing Russia's Sputnik V and China's Sinovac vaccines, and the country will soon receive the raw materials to manufacture China's Sinovac vaccine, under an agreement signed between VACSERA and the Chinese company.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health is working to carry out awareness campaigns for citizens in all governorates, within the framework of the ministry's role to spread health awareness among citizens, of the precautionary and preventive measures for the Coronavirus.

Dr. Hala Zayed, Minister of Health and Population, announced that the ministry's community communication teams provided health awareness to 1.5 million citizens in 10 governorates nationwide, from April and until May. Dr. Zayed also stated that there was provision of home vaccination services for citizens who suffer from diseases that make them unable to move, within the framework of the state's plan to curb the Coronavirus and to ensure the public health of citizens.

On the other hand, the National Council for Women, headed by Dr. Maya Morsi, has collaborated with the Minister of Health and Population during the last period that witnessed the launch of the Council's major awareness initiative to educate women about the need to take the COVID-19 vaccination, especially for the elderly, in addition to assisting women in registering their data to obtain the vaccination on the Ministry of Health website.

Dr. Morsi also confirmed that since the initiative started on May 17, 2021 nearly one million individuals (women and men) have been contacted through a door-to-door campaign launched by the council in 27 governorates nationwide, through inquiries received by hotline 15115, and the council's branches in the governorates.

THE BLACK FUNGUS

The black fungus or the Mucormycosis disease has killed more than 300 people and infected more than 12,000 in India as the country's health system continues to tackle COVID-19. There are calls by India's health authorities to announce it as an epidemic. But what is this disease and what is the relation between it and the COVID-19?

Mucormycosis (sometimes called zygomycosis) is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes. These fungi live throughout the environment, particularly in soil and in decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, or rotten wood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There are different types of mucormycosis, including rhinocerebral (sinus and brain), pulmonary (lung), gastrointestinal, and cutaneous (skin) mucormycosis.

People get mucormycosis by coming in contact with the fungal spores in the environment. For example, the lung or sinus forms of the infection can occur after someone breathes in spores. These forms of mucormycosis usually occur in people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body's ability to fight germs and sickness. The black fungus can also develop on the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, scrape, burn or any type of skin trauma.

Symptoms include respiratory-related symptoms include cough, fever, headache, chest pain, nasal or sinus congestion, pain and pressure around the eyes or blurred or double vision and pain shortness of breath.

Doctors can treat the infection by administering antifungal medication or performing surgery to remove the affected area. If left untreated, mucormycosis can be fatal, with a mortality rate of 54%, according to (CDC).

In India, experts said that the infections with the black fungus occurred because of a combination of factors. These factors might include contaminated oxygen equipment and the use of steroid drugs to treat certain COVID-19 patients.

Hossam Hosni, the head of the scientific committee to combat the Coronavirus at the Egyptian Ministry of Health, said on Monday at the press conference, regarding the developments of Corona in Egypt, and methods for spotting the black fungus, that Egypt does not have many cases infected with the black fungus disease, but there are cases that "do not exceed the fingers of the hand."

"There is a new change in the treatment protocol for Corona patients, which has nothing to do with the black fungus," Hosni added.

A lab technician works at the Eva Pharma facility in the Egyptian capital's twin city of Giza on July 12, 2020. - Egyptian pharmaceutical firm Eva Pharma has been producing Remdsivir, a medicine for coronavirus patients. (Getty)

RECENT GOVERNMENT ACTION

On the 30th of May, the Egyptian Prime Minister, announced returning to work on summer dates concerning the opening and closing of shops, malls, cafes, cafes, and restaurants, predetermined by the decisions of the Ministers of Local Development, Tourism and Antiquities, provided that these dates start to be implemented as of June 1, 2021.

Confirming that a fine will be applied to facilities that violate these dates, it was also stressed that all preventive and precautionary measures related to dealing with the Coronavirus in all public places, especially those that witness noticeable overcrowding.

The committee also agreed to continue banning the holding of birthdays, stressing the prevention of the establishment of mourning and wedding pavilions, and the obligation to hold weddings in open places only.

Madbouly also indicated that the ministry expect two million doses to arrive in the first half of next June from both Sinovac and Sino Pharm, other than 1.9 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine within the Kovacs agreement.