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 Tuesday, June 16:
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Headline events in news on COVID-19 in Egypt on Tuesday:
Could a hike in pay improve conditions for doctors facing COVID-19?
- A bill to increase doctors’ income will be on the docket for Parliament today, Finance Minister Mohamed Maiet told the House of Representatives, according to the privately-owned Masrawy news website. “It is being dealt with in the new budget,” said Maiet, though he said that “changing things for medical professions can’t be fixed in a single year.”
- Maiet’s salary hike is likely a response to a pre-existing and perennial nationwide shortage in doctors which Speaker Ali Abdel Aal suggested could be about to get worse as high demand for doctors due to COVID-19 means many may be tempted by higher salaries abroad.
- MP Dr. Mohamed al-Aamari also pointed to a rush in resignations and emigration among Egypt’s doctors. Aamari, who heads Parliament’s Health Committee, demanded the government prepare a comprehensive revision of doctors’ pay scale, rather than a one-off increase.
- Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal praised the president’s March directive which raised doctors’ monthly bonuses from LE400 up to somewhere in the range of LE700 – LE1,225, while supplements for workplace infection were also upped. The Doctors Syndicate said at the time the pay rise was not commensurate with the professional risk staff faced amid the pandemic.
Struggling to get off the ground: EgyptAir to borrow $185 mn
- EgyptAir plans to borrow LE3 billion (US$185 million), as the company is still ailing amid global lockdown, acting chairman Rushdi Zakaria told Reuters on Tuesday. The news comes as commercial flights and charter flights to three governorates are due to touch tarmac on July 1.
State banks the National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr will front up the funds by the end of July. Part of the funding will go to help EgyptAir pay off $12 million in foreign debt installments that were used to purchase new air carriers.
- Thermal cameras that can check 10-20 passengers at a time with a 95 percent rate of accuracy are also being installed at Egyptian airports by the Egyptian Holding Company for Airport and Air Navigation at a cost of LE21 million.
- As airlines prepare to up capacity in July, LE10 million has been allocated for the provision of healthcare treatment employees of the Civil Aviation Ministry and of affiliated companies, Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar said on Tuesday.
- Manar added that 57,000 Egyptians have been repatriated since COVID-19 hit Egypt in March.
Covering the costs: Supply Ministry to subsidize cloth masks
- 40 million cloth masks are to be included on subsidy cards for low-income families, but they won’t be ready until next month, said Supply Ministry advisor for foreign trade Ayman Hussam. Wearing masks in public places has been mandatory since May 31. Hussam spoke to the Sada al-Balad TV channel on Tuesday, saying the ministry was working to set a due date ASAP. The masks will be available both on the subsidized cards and at market price, he said.
No leave for exam staff
- None of the medical staff appointed to oversee the thanaweya amma (high school) exams will be allowed to take sick leave during exam time, the General Authority for Health Insurance has announced. In case of emergencies, permission can only be granted directly by the General Medical Authority. Committees will begin working to prepare exam stations this Thursday, Cairo24 reports, in readiness for 600,000 students to take exams on June 21. With rumors flying in the lead up to the mid-pandemic exams, Education Minister Tarek Shawky quashed a rumor on Tuesday that families will be compensated with LE5,000 if a student dies of COVID-19 during the exams.
- Comments on Tuesday from government officials working on the response to the coronavirus:
- Blaming the recent spike in the number of deaths per day on lax standards at small private hospitals, Hossam Hosny, head of the Scientific Committee tasked with combating coronavirus spoke to the Masouleity TV program on Tuesday. Hossam said the hospitals don’t follow ministry protocols, and that the standard of services in these hospitals are very low.
- MP Mohamed al-Ghoul questioned Parliament on how the LE63 billion budget allocation to combat the spread of COVID-19 has been used.
- Several updates in Tuesday’s news addressed the question of hospital capacity
- Insisting that there’s no shortage in hospital beds, advisor to the health minister Khaled al-Mugahed said on Tuesday that only 50% of the hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients are in active use as of yet.
- After the Monufiya governorate launched a live tracking website to monitor free beds, Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghafar and Health Hala Zayed met on Tuesday to discuss rolling out a similar nationwide database on empty beds in government hospitals.
- Patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have been asked to leave the Abu Khalifa Hospital and self-isolate at home, despite not having recovered yet, Cairo24 reported.
- Outpatient clinics across the governorate will be open for patients with chronic diseases next week, said advisor to the Health Ministry Khaled al-Mugahed on Tuesday. The announcement comes despite the health minister’s claiming recently that the high number of deaths was accounted for by people who were already suffering from chronic diseases.
- 650 rooms have been prepared to receive repatriated Egyptians in university housing in Sohag, said governor Tarek al-Fiky.
- Parliament’s Health Committee has recommended raising the health budget for 2020/21 by an additional LE9 billion to combat COVID-19.
Coexisting with COVID-19
- In updates on Tuesday of future plans to draw back restrictions on movement, gatherings and events:
- 14,000 nurseries could open mid-July, said Social Solidarity Minister Nevine Qabagge. She told the Masouleity TV show that the decision would depend on conditions at that time.
- Plans for the upcoming Hajj season will be announced by Saudi Arabia within the coming days. The Arab country will announce whether it will accept pilgrims, and if so, how many and under what conditions
- Commenting on the fines being implemented to disincentivize breaking curfew, Speaker Abdel Aal joked about the high rate of the fees, saying to Finance Minister Mohamed Maiet that “employees will harass [you] if they have to pay LE4,000.”
Who cares for the healthcare workers?
- In news of how coronavirus affected workers on the front lines of the response to the pandemic on Tuesday
- Three workers in the health sector were reported to have died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, including pediatrician Dr. Mohamed Hashad, Dr. Hamza Ibrahim Ali Tarkhan, and dentist Ahmed Yussef Akasha
- The doctor treating noted actress Ragaa al-Giddawy announced that he has contracted COVID-19.
- An employee at the Heart Center in Matrouh has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a source from the Matrouh Health Directorate
- Tawfiq Abd al-Muttalib Muhammad, a member of the Health Directorate in the Abu Kabir District has died of COVID-19
- Dar al-Ifta, the body issuing Islamic teachings, said Tuesday that doctors wearing personal protective equipment to treat COVID-19 patients can combine two of the five daily sessions of prayer, instead of having to remove their equipment five times daily
Working with COVID-19
- And finally, in news of how coronavirus affected workers elsewhere on Tuesday:
- “Get away from the ministers’ seats,” said Speaker of the House of Representatives Ali Abdel Aal was heard telling MPs, as ministers were in the House on Tuesday to present the new state budget. He also reprimanded MPs for not wearing masks.
- The Cairo Court of Appeals reported it has taken measures to support employees dealing with COVID-19.
- If the daily rate of new COVID-19 cases persists, the Wadi el-Gedid governorate has said it will halt mass transport and transport for tourists to and from the district of Dakhla starting from Saturday. The governorate also said it would be strict with penalties for those who violate home isolation, and will continue to distribute supplies to houses.
- Although private construction has been stopped by a nationwide moratorium, the state-owned Arab Contractors company will not stop working for any reason, television presenter Rasha Magdy told viewers of her morning show on Sada al-Balad.