Egypt's El Sisi urges nation to embrace anti-coronavirus measures

Citizens must respond to virus threat and vaccines campaign, president says, as country braces for pandemic's fourth wave

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President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Sunday directly appealed to Egyptians to take anti-coronavirus measures more seriously, a move that reflected concern about rises of infections as universities and schools prepare to reopen.

Mr El Sisi also called on Egyptians to better respond to his government’s vaccination campaign, saying he wanted to see higher rates of inoculation among the country’s 100 million people.

A woman walks in front of the Egyptian company VACSERA, where vials of China's Sinovac vaccine against the coronavirus are produced, in the capital Cairo, on September 1, 2021.  AFP

The daily rate of infections has risen steadily since the end of July, from about 30 to more than 300 this weekend, Health Ministry figures showed.

The latest infections took the number of cases since the pandemic began early last year to nearly 290,000. The number of deaths since then stood at 16,776 on Saturday.

“Please, let us pay more attention to preventive measures. We are about to enter a fourth wave,” Mr El Sisi said in televised comments. “We want to step up the Health Ministry’s vaccination campaign to reach maximum rates. I tell Egyptians, ‘please respond to us’.”

An Egyptian lab technician holds a vial of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine. Reuters.

The latest infection figures, while an accurate reflection of the pandemic’s curve, are believed to be way below the actual numbers, in part because of limited testing and because cases diagnosed and treated outside the state health sector are not counted.

Mr El Sisi said vaccinating university students and faculty staff was underway before the academic year begins next month.

“If possible, we will also vaccinate high school students,” he said.

The government has recently increased the number of vaccination centres from 580 to 657 and offices serving Egyptians who wish to travel abroad from 134 to 145.

There are also thousands of mobile vaccination units that go directly to banks, government offices and tourism businesses.

There should have been 800 vaccination centres, including six each with the capacity to vaccinate 20,000 people daily, by the end of last month, Health Minister Hala Zayed said.

An Egyptian woman receives Covid-19 vaccination.

However, only about 4 per cent of the population were fully vaccinated by the end of last month and 7.5 million had had at least one dose.

Media reports speculated that the government, fearing a higher rate of infections as schools and universities reopen and the Delta variant spreads, was considering the revival of fines on Egyptians found not wearing masks in public places.

Police powers to levy a 50-pound on-the-spot fine were introduced this year, but the practice swiftly disappeared after a few weeks and Egyptians returned to using public transport and public spaces without regard for others.

The accelerated rates of infections in recent weeks have been blamed in part on a series of heavily-attended summer concerts in Mediterranean resorts north-west of Cairo and overcrowding on beaches in coastal cities such as Alexandria, where masks were a rarity and no social distancing was observed.

Updated: September 05, 2021, 3:40 PM