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Egypt Races to Combat Coronavirus as Cases Rise

Egypt Races to Combat Coronavirus as Cases Rise

Thursday, 2 April, 2020 - 18:30
A medical team personnel member is seen beside a banner for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as he sprays disinfectant as a precautionary move amid concerns over the novel coronavirus at the underground Al Shohadaa "Martyrs" metro station, Cairo, Egypt, March 22, 2020. Reuters

Egypt has ramped up efforts to fight the coronavirus, ordering manufacturers to channel medical protective equipment to public hospitals and announcing 1 billion Egyptian pounds ($64 million) in extra funding for its health services amid rising cases in the COVID-19 disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised Egypt's efforts in fighting the pandemic but has also said they can be scaled up in some areas.

Jean Jabbour, head of the WHO's Egypt office, said the government's response had so far been prompt. There are 2,000 beds allocated for COVID-19 treatment, half of which are in intensive care units and 600 with ventilators, while 400,000 test kits have been delivered, his office told Reuters.

"This is ready to increase … whenever there is a surge in the number of cases of COVID-19," Jabbour said.

Egypt reported its first coronavirus case on February 14. The number of confirmed cases has risen steadily to 850, including 52 deaths.

There are about 50 coronavirus testing centers, up from one at the start of the outbreak, and eight isolation and treatment hospitals.

For the moment, officials say they are able to contain the virus by testing, tracing, isolation and treatment, along with restrictive measures including a nighttime curfew and the closure of mosques, schools and tourist sites.

But once the number of cases surpasses 1,000, the tracing would become harder, the health minister has said.

"If we're very lucky we can shut down transmission like they did in China. If we're not so lucky we can delay at least the stage three or community-wide transmission," WHO official Yvan Hutin said at a press briefing on Monday.

"If we're not lucky or if we don't work hard enough then it could come faster than we can cope."

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Thursday that Egypt will aim to boost its strategic reserves of staple commodities to six months to ensure supply during the pandemic.

"Egypt has enough reserves of staple commodities sufficient for around three months, some good for up to 5 or 6 months. We are working now on increasing the reserves of all of the staples to 6 months," Madbouly said in a televised address.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday encouraged authorities to boost the country's reserves of strategic commodities amidst rising global fears for food supplies due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The directions to boost reserves have been given and the measures [to implement] that are being taken," Supply Minister Ali Moselhy said in a recorded message on Thursday.

He said that current stocks of items such as rice, sugar and pasta were sufficient for at least four months.

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