Coronavirus: Egypt reports its highest daily number of cases

Almost 20,000 people have been infected to date

This picture taken on October 23, 2019 from the Cairo Tower in the centre of the Egyptian capital shows a view of the Nile river flowing through the city between the central downtown (background) and Zamalek districts (foreground).  / AFP / Mohamed el-Shahed
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Egypt reported its highest number of daily Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, marking a jump of more than 100 cases over the previous record.

There are fears that  the worst of the pandemic in Egypt may be yet to come, placing immense pressure on its fragile heath sector, which has suffered decades of negligence and mismanagement.

The government has recently poured more funds into the health system and introduced reforms to try to improve the standard of care.

But the threat of the disease spreading further in the nation of 100 million people could still prove overwhelming for healthcare centres.

The government says it is prepared to deal with a much larger number of infections and dismisses accusations that its handling of the pandemic has been inefficient.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said the crisis had been handled “professionally and scientifically”.

Mr El Sisi said Egyptians should more diligently observe preventive measures such as social distancing and hygienic practices to spare the country many more infections.

He has repeatedly sought to reassure Egyptians that available resources are adequate to deal with the pandemic.

In its daily report, the Health Ministry on Wednesday said 910 more people were diagnosed with Covid-19, surpassing by 21 the previous, one-day record high of 789 registered on Tuesday.

The latest infections take the number of Covid-19 cases to 19,666. Of these, the ministry said, 5,205 people had recovered and been released from hospital.

It said the death toll stood at 816 by Wednesday night.

The numbers are relatively low for a country of Egypt’s size, something that the government attributes to its efficient handling of the pandemic.

But critics believe the numbers are low because not enough random testing is being carried out and because many Egyptians who contract the disease or suspect they have it isolate themselves or treat themselves outside the state’s healthcare system.

Authorities significantly tightened restrictions on movement and businesses this week, including for the three-day Eid Al Fitr holiday.

The night-time curfew was brought forward by four hours to start at 5pm instead of 9pm.

All public transport was halted and shops were closed.

Restaurants, cafes, gyms, sports clubs, cinemas and public parks were also shut and movement between provinces was severely restricted.

But the government said that, starting on Saturday, the curfew will begin at 8pm, while restaurants and cafes will reopen but only for delivery and takeaway.

Shops and malls will reopen but close at 5pm.