Egypt to cut short school year to help contain third coronavirus wave

Egypt began vaccinations in late January, but less than 300,000 Egyptians have so far been inoculated

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cairo, Egypt, April 25, 2021 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Egypt is cutting its public school calendar for this year by up to a month, to help contain a third wave outbreak of the coronavirus.

The announcement on Sunday coincided with the release of an image of a smiling President Abdel Fatah El Sisi, 66, in a casual polo shirt and matching trousers receiving the coronavirus vaccine.

The president's office did not reveal the name of the vaccine the Egyptian leader received or whether it was the first shot.

The publication of the image, however, appeared to be aimed at encouraging more Egyptians to get inoculated.

Egypt began vaccinations in late January, but less than 300,000 people have so far been inoculated out of a total population of around 100 million.

The Cabinet's decision to cut short the school year from May to the end of this month exempts students graduating from middle and high schools who will take their final exams in the summer.

Other students will not sit for end of year exams, and the average of their March and April exam resultswill determine final scores.

International schools will be allowed to operate until the normal end of the school year in June, with parents given the choice of their children physically attending school a maximum of three days per week or being taught online. Those who opt for a three-day attendance in person will be taught online for the remainder of the week.

The move came just one day after Health Minister Hala Zayed said the rate of infections in Egypt was rising in small but regular jumps as the third wave of the pandemic gripped  the country.

She also warned businessmen operating cafes and restaurants to diligently observe preventive measures or face closure.

These outlets and the special tents that spring up in Ramadan to offer food and live music have been packed since the start nearly two weeks ago of the holy month.

The daily number of Covid-19 infections crossed the 900-threshold on Saturday, the latest day for which figures are available, after weeks of small but daily hikes. The number of daily deaths has been hovering around 40-50 for weeks.

According to the Health Ministry, 221,570 people have contracted Covid-19 since the pandemic was declared  and another 12,998 succumbed to the virus.

While these official figures are believed to be a reliable indicator of the epidemic’s “curve”, the actual number of infections and fatalities are said by experts and officials to be much higher.