Coronavirus surge in Egypt sees daily cases double in a month

Footballer Mohamed Salah is among high-profile sports and film stars who have caught the virus in Egypt

A man walks in front of a pharmacy amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Alexandria, Egypt December 6, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
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The number of Covid-19 cases reported in Egypt has surged from a daily average of less than 200 to well over 400 since the start of the month, giving credence to forecasts of a “second wave”.

These are relatively small numbers in a country of 100 million people, but Health Ministry figures are taken as a reliable indicator of the rate of infections, rather than the number of cases.

This is attributed in part to limited testing by the state’s health services and the large number of patients who contract a mild form of Covid-19 and recover without reporting to hospitals.

While Covid-19 cases and related deaths are fewer in the wave, the publicity surrounding the relatively high number of Egyptian celebrities who contracted the disease is drawing added attention.

The most prominent of those celebrities was Liverpool and Egypt star striker Mohamed Salah, who is believed to have been infected at his brother’s wedding in Cairo last month.

Images online showed Salah not wearing a mask or wearing it negligently.

He missed two international fixtures with the Pharaohs and a Premier League match before he tested negative and resumed playing for Liverpool.

About half a dozen movie stars caught the disease at a popular film festival held at an upscale Red Sea resort in late October.

Organisers countered criticism by insisting that preventive measures such as face masks and social distancing were strictly enforced.

But images online showed crowded auditoriums and after parties, where few guests observed precautions.

Another film festival opened on Thursday in Cairo, with most celebrities walking the red carpet without masks and images from parties again showing film stars mingling freely without masks or social distancing.

A total of 118,014 people have fallen victim to the coronavirus since February when the pandemic first arrived in Egypt, the Health Ministry said, while the death toll has reached 6,750.

Officials have said the number could be much higher, perhaps 10 times the reported amount.

June had the highest number of cases and deaths, with the daily number hitting as many as 1,700 and about 100 respectively, the ministry said.

The government has repeatedly warned that, until a vaccine is available, Egyptians must take precautions against the spread of the coronavirus.

Authorities said they intend to reinforce the 4,000-pound fine on anyone using public transport or going to government offices without wearing a mask.

They said failure to observe preventive measures would allow the disease to spread as it did elsewhere in the world with disastrous consequences, and an unwanted repeat of the March-July lockdown that hurt the economy.