Coronavirus: Egypt reports 388 more infections in past 24 hours for new high

Death toll in most populous Arab nation is 452

epa08389218 A doctor checks a patient at the Imbaba Fevers Hospital in Cairo, Egypt, 28 April 2020. Countries around the world are taking increased measures to stem the widespread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which causes the COVID-19 disease  EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Authorities in Egypt on Tuesday said that a record one-day high of 388 cases of coronavirus infections were diagnosed in the previous 24 hours.

The record, 30 more than on Friday, is likely to raise questions whether tougher action is needed from the government to stop the pandemic spiralling out of control.

The rapid rise in cases, if sustained, could also force the government to reconsider plans for a gradual return to normality after the end of Ramadan on April 22 or 23.

Authorities have warned that Egyptians need to diligently observe the rules of social distancing, wear surgical masks in public and avoid large gatherings or face harsher measures.

The government has had a night-time curfew in place for more than a month and closed schools, universities, mosques and churches.

It halted international air travel and closed restaurants, cafes, museums, historical sites and most public parks.

The government’s strategy for the outbreak is twofold.

It aims to protect Egyptians through preventive measures and an intense media campaign educating the public on how the virus is transmitted and ways to avoid infection.

The second half of the strategy is to allow people to return to work to protect the economy from a complete meltdown.

That would leave millions hungry and wipe out the hard-won economic success from years of austerity and harsh reforms that won international praise.

The Health Ministry on Tuesday said the number of detected Covid-19 cases to date reached 7,201, of whom 1,730 have recovered.

The number of fatalities was 452, a one-day increase of 16.

The new record, the latest in a series of highs over the past two weeks, suggests that the outbreak has yet to peak.

It is an ominous scenario in a country of 100 million and a healthcare system damaged by decades of negligence.

Egyptians are crowded on less than 10 per cent of the country’s land and many live in unhygienic conditions.

The government has reassured them that it can handle more infections if needs be because it has used only a fraction of the hospital space available.