Daily COVID-19 roundup: June 2
 
 

Editor’s note: The daily COVID-19 roundup is part of the Mada Morning Digest, our daily overview of what is making waves in the Arabic language press. If you want all the latest updates on COVID-19 and other leading stories including coverage of the economy, foreign policy, Parliament, the judiciary, media and much more — to land in your mailbox each morning, subscribe for a free trial here

Here are the latest figures on COVID-19 as of Monday, June 1:

New casesRecoveredNew deaths
1,39933946
Current casesTotal casesTotal deaths
18,23026,3841,005

 

True number of total infections could be five times official figure, says minister

Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdul Ghaffar has suggested that the true number of coronavirus infections in Egypt could be around five times higher than recorded, saying that as many as 117,000 cases could have hit the country since February. The official total stood at 26,384 on Monday night.

Abdul Ghaffar spoke on the projected figures and the calculated infection in a rare moment of clarity on how the government is modeling the pandemic, as the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in Egypt topped the 1,000 mark on Monday.

News websites reported on a video statement in which the higher education minister said on Monday that the total number of COVID-19 infections is increasing at an average rate of 6.5 percent, and the rate of infection in the population currently stands at 1.4 percent  — a density which means that every 10 infected individuals will infect an estimated 14 other people. Other countries including Germany and the UK have based their lockdown measures on a 1 percent rate.

While the higher education minister acknowledged the importance of a 1 percent rate of infection as a threshold, he didn’t mention how this is reflecting on government strategy as mid-June approaches, bringing us closer to the due date for lifting the lockdown under the “coexisting with coronavirus” plans. 

Instead, Abdul Ghaffar maintained the government’s emphasis on individual responsibility, saying that “the citizen controls whether the coronavirus spreads or is eliminated.” He urged citizens to adhere to government instructions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the seemingly clear modeling, Abdul Ghaffar said it was nevertheless “impossible to determine at what time Egypt will reach a peak in infections,” although he predicted that a total 50,000 cases would be officially recorded before the number of daily infections starts falling.

Abdul Ghaffar reiterated the role of the public in controlling the rate of increase, saying that if the general public does not adhere to the government’s instructions, then cases could reach 100,000 or even 1,000,000.  

Explaining how the government had arrived at the estimated figure of 117,000 total cases in Egypt, Abdul Ghaffar said that the number of confirmed positive cases is multiplied by five while the number of deaths is multiplied by 10.  

  • Before the total number of deaths in Egypt due to COVID-19 exceeded the 1,000 mark in the Health Ministry Monday evening tally, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbuly met online with governors to direct how the COVID-19 response is rolled out locally. Key points included instructions for regular hospital inspections to track attendance among medical staff, and to keep an eye on supplies.
    • According to the governor of Daqahlia, the Cabinet decided on Monday to prevent doctors and nurses from taking holidays or leaves of absence for the next two months. The governor reiterated the instruction during a television appearance.
    • The PM tasked governors with upholding strict discipline among health workers, telling them that “you have all the power to deal strictly with this. At this stage we cannot tolerate any negligence from those responsible,” as he urged governors to ensure medical staff are reporting to shifts as required.
    • He also directed governors to conduct daily inspections at hospitals to ensure medical supplies are available. Health Minister Hala Zayed likewise commented on medical supplies, urging inspection units to make sure products are available at pharmacies and aren’t being stockpiled. “Egypt has sufficient medicines and preventive supplies in all hospitals,” Zayed said.
    • Cabinet also urged governors to launch their own local COVID-19 hotlines to receive questions and complaints, a move which could take pressure off the national 105 hotline.
    • Commenting on long queues and inefficiency on the 105 hotline, Hassan Omar MP, who sits on the Local Administration Committee, noted that complaints have poured in from citizens. He submitted a request for briefing by the PM, calling for special local phone lines in governorates to be dedicated to registering suspected infections in order to keep figures more accurate.
    • Following the PM’s instructions, the governor of Luxor was reported to have inspected Luxor Fever Hospital, urging hospital officials to increase nursing staff for patients in quarantine. The Port Said governor likewise put a committee in charge of daily inspections at hospitals.
       
  • A couple of news items on Monday showed a continuing push to up the production of clinical supplies while increasing hospital capacity nationwide.
    • Egypt was granted the right to manufacture the antiviral drug Remdesivir by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration, according to former FDA consultant and immunology consultant Ashraf al-Feky.
    • Minya University Hospital was granted LE130 million in funding from the National Bank of Egypt and Bank Misr.
    • An old hospital in Luxor could be reopened to accept quarantine patients, after the PM referred a request submitted by Abdel-Razek al-Zant MP to the Health Ministry. 
    • Suez Canal University Hospital was slated to be converted from a specialist organ transplant hospital into a quarantine hospital with a capacity of 50 beds, 10 of which are for intensive care.
    • And a new medical complex in Cairo was opened as part of the Hayah Karimah initiative to provide healthcare services at nominal rates for lower-income citizens. Members of the Nation’s Future Party, which holds the majority of seats in Parliament, attended the Monday opening.
       
  • Three doctors were included in the recent COVID-19 mortality figures:
  • Controversy around access to tests for doctors continued on Monday, after a staffer at the Demerdash University Hospital tested positive for COVID-19 after testing negative initially. The doctor shared her story in a Facebook post, criticizing delays in tests and a lack of hygiene precautions at her workplace, despite the Cabinet having agreed to make PCR tests more accessible to medical staff. The doctor said that she had stopped self-isolating after the false negative, meaning she had come into contact with family members and colleagues. 
  • As for infections among those still going to work:
    • A steady stream of COVID-19 infections among journalists continued on Monday.
      • Mohamed Fawzy, an employee of Al-Gomhurriya newspaper, died of COVID-19 on Monday. He was the third Al-Gomhurriya employee to die of the virus.
      • Hussein el-Zanaty, a member of the Journalists Syndicate, was reported to have contracted COVID-19 Monday.
      • Sports anchor Karim Ramzy was confirmed to have COVID-19, joining another five media anchors diagnosed on Sunday.
      • In response to the cluster of cases among media professionals, the Journalists Syndicate signed a protocol for journalists to have any COVID-19 symptoms checked via preliminary examinations free of charge if they present a referral letter from the syndicate.
      • National Press Authority Chief Karam Gabr also said that “we deal immediately with suspected coronavirus cases [at state-run press institutions].”
      • Information Minister Osama Heikal urged media professionals to take the advised precautions, and wished all those infected a swift recovery.
    • A spate of cases among parliamentarians also seemed to continue on Monday, with two more cases reported. Measures were also taken to limit a further outbreak.
      • A Parliament spox said that seven MPs have now contracted COVID-19, one of whom is Youssef al-Shazly, MP for part of Fayoum, and the other was unnamed. Five MPs had been confirmed to have the coronavirus as of Sunday.
      • Deputy Health Minister Ahmed Shawky reportedly tested positive on Monday. 
      • The central air conditioning system was disinfected at parliamentary HQ. 
      • An employee of Parliament was admitted to the Mounira hospital after suffering from shortness of breath.
         
  • Several news items displayed the impact of the coronavirus on Egyptians living abroad on Monday.
    • A government study anticipates that remittances will drop around US$1.9 billion year on year, based on the decline in demand for Egyptian labor in Europe and the Gulf in particular. The figures predict that total remittances for 2019/20 will come in at around $23.3 billion, but that remittances will drop still lower next year to $19.6 billion.
    • “Coronavirus has impacted the number of Egyptians working abroad,” said Hamdy Imam, head of the Egyptian Labor Abroad Division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce.
    • The Kuwaiti Health Ministry also announced that another 104 Egyptians working in Kuwait tested positive for COVID-19.
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