Egypt says no cases of Omicron variant as 3.89 million vaccine doses arrive

Country of more than 100 million people joins other nations in introducing travel restrictions

A man receives a dose of the vaccine against Covid-19 as others queue at the Sadat underground station, Cairo. EPA

No Omicron cases have been detected in Egypt so far, Health Ministry spokesperson Hossam Abdel Ghaffar said on Monday in a phone-in to state TV.

The situation is being heavily monitored, the department said, and any cases of the variant found would be reported with transparency.

During a televised phone interview on Sunday, the country’s acting health minister, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar – who is also Minister of Higher Education – said that while preventing the new variant from entering Egypt was nigh on impossible, health officials were keen to conduct scientific research to determine how transmissible it was, as well as how serious Omicron infections are compared to other variants.

Mr Ghaffar underscored the importance of travel restrictions and preventive measures at the country’s ports of entry to make sure the situation was kept under control as much as possible.

He said that as concerns over the new variant continue to rise, the best tool was to get vaccinated and continue practising preventive measures like mask-wearing and regular hand-washing.

Egypt’s Covid-19 management committee announced on Friday that direct flights to and from seven southern African countries would be halted after they each recorded a sharp rise in detected Omicron cases.

Egypt’s travel restrictions come after similar travel bans issued by the UK, the US and the EU last week.

An unvaccinated tourist was confirmed as Belgium’s first case of the new variant on Friday, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said.

The tourist had returned from Egypt 11 days before his symptoms began to appear.

A statement from Egypt’s Health Ministry on Friday said that investigations were under way to determine whether the Belgian tourist was infected while in Egypt.

After the statement, a tourist returning from Egypt to the Czech Republic, was announced by wire service BNO to be the eastern European country’s first suspected Omicron case.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said in a tweet on Saturday that the suspected Omicron case did not travel to Egypt, contrary to media reports. The woman spent time in Namibia and flew back to the Czech Republic via South Africa and Dubai, he said.

The Czech Republic’s health ministry and its Institute of Public Health did not respond to a request for comment

Swiss authorities announced new travel restrictions on anyone arriving from Egypt, the UK, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Malawi.

Travellers from these countries will now be required to present a negative Covid-19 test and undergo quarantine for 10 days before entering, Swiss health officials said.

Egypt received 3.89 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 shot on Sunday through the Gavi vaccine alliance. The shipment was the country’s largest to date. On Sunday, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on children aged 12-15.

Updated: November 30th 2021, 6:10 AM