Egypt prepares to distribute vaccine amid Covid-19 surge

The country has received 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, with another 50,000 due to arrive on Tuesday

FILE PHOTO: Egyptians wear protective face masks inside City Centre mall ahead of Black Friday, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Cairo suburb of Maadi, Egypt November 26, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo
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Egypt’s rate of coronavirus infections has risen dramatically, with daily cases more than doubling in recent weeks as authorities prepare to introduce a vaccine.

Front-line health workers will be given priority, followed by the elderly and then those with chronic ailments.

But President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s medical adviser said on Tuesday that Egyptians must continue to observe preventive measures such as social distancing, wearing masks in crowded or indoor areas and frequently washing their hands.

“Vaccines will neither give full immunity nor entirely destroy the virus,” Mohammed Tagedeen said.

"They will reduce the symptoms and that’s why we have to continue to embrace preventive measures, which must take priority."

He said that no vaccine would be used in Egypt unless the government and science agencies were fully satisfied with its effect.

Health Minister Hala Zayed said that Egypt received 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, which is taken twice, 21 days apart.

Another shipment of 50,000 doses was expected to arrive in Egypt late on Tuesday.

The vaccine will be administered free of charge to health workers, the elderly and chronic disease patients, Ms Zayed said.

Egyptians who request to be vaccinated to meet entry requirements set by foreign nations will have to pay for it.

The vaccine, which has yet to be priced, will not be used until it is approved by Egypt’s medicine regulator, the ministry said.

The number of daily Covid-19 cases was last under 200 on November 4, when 197 cases were reported.

It crossed the 300 mark on November 18 and rose beyond 400 on December 3.

On Monday, it crossed the 500 barrier for the first time in months, with a total of 511 cases.

The daily death rate has also been rising, but at a slower rate than infections, with an average of about 20 people a day succumbing.

While these numbers are relatively low for a country of more than 100 million people, they provide a reliable reading on the spread of the disease.

Government officials acknowledge that the actual number could be tenfold what the Health Ministry says because testing is limited and many who contract the disease receive treatment outside state healthcare facilities.

The ministry says a total of 122,086 people have been infected since the pandemic began in February and 6,943 have died.

The government has repeatedly said that it did not intend to order a lockdown similar to that enforced this year, when the economy was hit hard by the measures.

But it says it will not hesitate to do what is necessary to protect Egyptians from the pandemic, appealing to them to observe preventive measures.

The seriousness of the threat from the epidemic’s second wave became more apparent when entertainment and sporting celebrities including Liverpool and Egypt star striker Mohamed Salah, contracted the virus.

Several of his teammates on the national squad also caught Covid-19, as did film stars and prominent TV personalities.