Egypt prepares for fifth wave of Covid-19 infections

Authorities increase pressure to get people vaccinated while expanding inoculation drive to children 12 and above

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Egypt has made vaccination compulsory for residents seeking government services as it prepares for an anticipated fifth wave of Covid-19 cases in the country.

The rule is part of new guidelines issued by the country’s Covid-19 management committee on Saturday to combat the Omicron variant – cases of which have been surging around the world.

The committee said the vaccination rule would take effect immediately, with government offices told to turn away anyone who has not received at least one vaccine dose.

The committee also expanded the country's inoculation drive – previously restricted to over-18s – to children aged 12 and above. Fully vaccinated people will be given a third dose as a booster to protect them against Omicron.

Vaccinations will be made more accessible by opening more centres at locations such as metro and train stations and shopping malls, the committee said.

Screening has been stepped up at all points of entry into the country to detect and isolate any Omicron cases, it said.

Health Ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar said Omicron is expected to be the predominant variant in the next wave of infections.

Egypt's healthcare system is well-prepared to deal with the next wave, which is expected to be much less severe as more people have been vaccinated, he said.

He said 99 per cent of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals were unvaccinated.

People wait to register at a Covid-19 vaccination centre in the Sadat underground metro station in Cairo, Egypt. Reuters

Mr Abdel Ghaffar said Egypt has received 100 million doses of various Covid-19 vaccines so far, with more expected to arrive in early 2022.

Egypt's acting health minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said on Thursday that 33.7 million people out of Egypt's 102 million population have received at least one dose of vaccine and 20.9 million are fully vaccinated. The inoculation campaign began nearly a year ago.

The Covid-19 committee said on Saturday that it had struck deals with pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca, Merck and Pfizer to provide Egypt with their new Covid-19 medications.

Meanwhile, enforcement of preventive measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing will become stricter in coming weeks with the onset of winter, which typically witnesses a spike in coronavirus infections.

Egypt reported 866 new Covid-19 infections on Saturday, bringing the national tally to 380,520 since the start of the pandemic. The death toll rose by 25 to 21,571.

The UAE received the first global shipment of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 antibody drug Evusheld last week.

Updated: December 26, 2021, 5:10 PM