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Here are the latest figures on COVID-19 as of Sunday, May 17:
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News on Sunday focused on the special lockdown measures that will be rolled out for Eid al-Fitr, ending weeks of speculation. The two-week total lockdown demanded by the Doctors Syndicate appears to have been shelved, with the Cabinet instead announcing a list of special preventative measures to begin from Sunday, May 24:
- Daily curfew is to tighten to start from 5 pm (instead of the current 9 pm) and will last until 6 am until Tuesday.
- After Tuesday, curfew will begin from 8 pm for a two-week period.
- The Eid al-Fitr holiday leave will be extended to last five days instead of three for government employees, in a decision that is due to be issued formally tomorrow.
- No gatherings will be permitted for Eid prayers in mosques, public squares or sports playfields.
- All entertainment shops, malls, restaurants, parks and beaches are to shut down completely from Sunday until Friday.
- Public and shared transport will not run from May 24 to May 29 (Sun – Fri). Although, a Cabinet spox said later on Sunday night that “workers” would be exempted from the ban on shared transit, without going into further detail.
As the Cabinet was holding its presser announcing a mini five-day lockdown over the Eid holiday, the Doctors Syndicate held its own presser, demanding an overhaul of the strategy:
- While acknowledging the economic, social and cultural consequences of a total lockdown for Eid, syndicate General Secretary Dr. Ahmed Bakr said it would help to “restore a sense of vigilance among citizens.”
- Speaking on the lack of PCR tests and calling for more extensive testing for doctors and for the rest of the population, Rashwan Shaaban, a syndicate board member, said the current testing approach “is very cruel” toward medical workers, while the treasurer of the syndicate’s Cairo branch Dr. Sanaa Foad said a total lockdown would “buy us time to reevaluate some of the current issues.”
- Anyone preventing doctors from accessing tests “should be put on a trial,” said former Doctors Syndicate head Dr. Khairy Abdel Dayem.
- Total lockdown has “become a necessity,” Abdel Dayem added, warning that an “explosion of cases is imminent,” while “current hospitals are already full, and new ones are not fully equipped yet.”
- The syndicate also continued to press for quarantine locations to be designated especially for doctors who contract COVID-19, and hospitals especially to treat infected medical staff requiring critical care.
The Doctors Syndicate’s demands follow an escalating number of major outbreaks among hospital staff, with notable examples including Aswan Hospital, Matareya Hospital, Nagila Hospital and Zahraa Hospital.
- The director of Zahraa Hospital, which is affiliated with Al-Azhar University, announced his resignation on Sunday, following an outbreak in which at least 135 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
- The number of cases among staff at Manshiyet al-Bakry Hospital increased to 25 on Sunday, with test results yet to come in, according to a doctor from the hospital who spoke to the partisan Darb news website.
- Mona Mina, former deputy head, and a current member of the syndicate’s complaints committee, said that 300 doctors are estimated to have coronavirus at the moment, blasting the Health Ministry for not announcing an official count for the frontline staff.
Despite the Doctors Syndicate raising the alarm about capacity at quarantine hospitals last week, the Cabinet denied it was an issue in its Friday weekly media report. Yet a couple of steps on Sunday suggest the government is giving consideration to the logistics of absorbing more COVID-19 patients into Egypt’s health system:
- Waiting tents have been set up in front of Abbasseya Fever Hospital to serve as a space to examine and filter potential COVID-19 cases. The ministry has said that the step is part of its plans to ramp up the capacity of the health system to absorb coronavirus patients.
- The government also published a how-to guide on handling COVID-19 at home, including detailed steps on cleaning patients’ clothes.
- Around 6,000 repatriated Egyptians and 2,600 mild COVID-19 cases have been housed in specially deployed university dorms, said the Health Ministry. The ministry has not specified the whereabouts of over 9,000 other active cases in Egypt.
Despite Sunday seeing the highest number of cases recorded in a single day in Egypt to date, with the figure surpassing the 500 mark, the Cabinet is still angling for the “coexisting with the coronavirus” plan to kick off in mid-June, after clarifying on Sunday how the plan will look.
- Obligatory mask-wearing seemed to be a hallmark characteristic of the plan:
- Starting June, all commuters and passengers using public transit will be required to wear face masks.
- PM Mostafa Madbuly has reportedly ordered clothes factories — where production was halted due to the pandemic — to channel their capacities into manufacturing reusable fabric masks at a price of LE5 each
- Mask-wearing, which is already obligatory at banks and government buildings across the country, will become compulsory for everyone going into any kind of public area.
- Accordingly, MP Magdy Malak has asked the government to provide lower-income citizens with face masks through the Supply Ministry’s subsidy cards.
- Other parts of the co-existing with COVID-19 plan include testing at the entrances to government workplaces, while an announcement on Sunday suggested that a timetable for beginning flights could also be ready by June.
Even as plans to open the economy in June seemed to firm up, Sunday saw an influx of reports showing that the coronavirus has already infiltrated those workplaces that have remained open:
- Five workers in an unnamed biscuits factory to the west of Alexandria have tested positive for COVID-19. Colleagues who came into contact with the cases have been ordered to self-isolate.
- A security guard at Cairo International Airport tested positive for COVID-19, along with four members of his family. The guard was told to self-quarantine at home due to a lack of available beds at hospitals, reports Cairo24.
- Eight infections have been reported so far among employees of the Egyptian Metro Authority, a source from the authority told Cairo24. Three of these appear to have died of the virus, with Cairo24’s source noting the deaths of a metro conductor on Line Two and the manager of Saad Zaghloul station, while the cashier from Kobri al-Qobba station reportedly passed away yesterday, following news of his diagnosis over the weekend.
- Four more journalists tested positive for COVID-19, the Journalists Syndicate announced Sunday.
- An employee who works at the office of Qalyubiyah’s deputy governor has tested positive for COVID-19. The office has shut for 14 days.
Four villages in Monufiya were placed under “partial lockdown” Sunday for 14 days after the emergence of clusters of COVID-19 infections. Both private and public sector workers were given a work leave permit during these 14 days.