Egypt: glimmer of hope as Covid-19 cases fall below 1,000 for second day in a row

The news broke after 11 people, including at least one child, drowned at a closed beach in Alexandria

FILE PHOTO: A pharmacist doctor works on the basics of the raw materials for investigational of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment drug "Remdesivir", in Ibn Sina laboratory, at Eva Pharma Facility in Cairo, Egypt June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh -/File Photo
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Egypt has for the second consecutive day recorded under 1,000 cases of coronavirus, offering a welcome respite from numbers that last month steadily inched closer to 2,000 as well as a glimmer of hope that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic may be behind the most populous Arab nation.

Egypt has by Friday night recorded a total of 80,235 cases and 3,702 deaths since the outbreak of coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease known as Covid-19, in mid-February, according to health ministry figures. Officials, however, believe the actual numbers could be much higher, chiefly because testing has been disproportionately limited.

They also said the curve of infections and deaths caused by coronavirus was expected to level out during the first half of July before it is flattened by the end of the month.

These forecasts are yet to be validated, but the signs are somewhat hopeful.

News of the sub-1,000 cases broke just hours after 11 people, including at least one child, drowned early on Friday in the Mediterranean off a public beach in the city of Alexandria. The beach is one of 61 in the city that have been closed since March as part of measures to contain the spread of the virus.

The victims were among a larger group of men who rushed to the water to try and save a drowning child but ended up drowning too, according to an official statement. Although closed, the beach was invaded by holidaymakers shortly after sunrise to take advantage of the absence during the early hours of the day of the security guards enforcing the beach’s closure, said the statement.

The beach, called Al Nakheel, is notorious for its treacherous waters, claiming dozens of bathers’ lives every year. Many beachgoers in Egypt take to the water along the country’s Mediterranean and Red Sea coastlines or the Nile river without basic swimming skills, leaving many vulnerable to drowning.

The Health Ministry said late on Friday night that 981 Covid-19 cases were recorded in the previous 24 hours and that another 85 died. On Thursday, another batch of sub-1,000 cases was recorded, when the ministry said 950 people contracted the disease and 51 died.

Egypt on Monday said the daily number of Covid-19 cases dipped below 1,000 for the first time in nearly 40 days, but the figure jumped back past 1,000 on Tuesday and Wednesday, crushing hopes that a downward trend may have been underway. A senior health ministry adviser has said the numbers must decline for 14 consecutive days to indicate a flattened curve was underway.

The sub-1,000 figures, however, remain a welcome respite after June became by far the deadliest month since the pandemic began, with the number of cases and fatalities accounting for more than 50 per cent of those in the previous four months combined.

Egypt almost completely reopened the country on June 27 after three months of various degrees of lockdown to contain the pandemic, a move that had many worried whether the government acted in haste. However, the number of cases has so far shown no sign of spiking as critics had predicted, although it might be too soon to tell for certain.

Doctors speaking to The National on condition of anonymity said that while the daily number of cases continues to be a source of concern, patients with life-threatening symptoms appear to be decreasing. Many of those showing up at hospitals with mild coronavirus symptoms are sent home to self-isolate and recover on their own, they said.

But the doctors warn that the social stigma associated with the disease in some segments of society has meant that many Covid-19 patients are leading normal lives and infecting hundreds in the process.

The government has tirelessly appealed to Egyptians to more diligently observe preventive measures to combat Covid-19, like social distancing and wearing masks in crowded public spaces. But the vast majority continue to ignore the government’s counsel, persisting with their casual approach to the pandemic.