The true number of coronavirus infections in Egypt could be over 71,000, Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said Thursday, adding that the number of confirmed cases in the country is predicted to reach 20,000 next week.
As of Wednesday, Egypt recorded 14,229 confirmed coronavirus infections, including 680 deaths.
But the minister said the country was likely to have many more coronavirus cases than what has been officially confirmed, estimating the country could have 71,145 or more infections.
This estimated outbreak size is, according to Abdel Ghaffar, “on the assumption we are fivefold lower [in official records] than numbers existing now.”
“Assuming [the number of infections] is five times the figure we are counting every day … this means we do not have [around] 14,000 cases today, we have 71,145 or more,” the minister said in a televised conference attended by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
Under that scenario, the figure would reach 100,000 by the end of May, he said.
“This is a hypothetical model that we say can be a reality and [the figure] can be even higher.”
Abdel Ghaffar said it is “impossible” for any country to have an accurate tally of true infection rate with the existence of a substantial but unknown number of asymptomatic cases, adding nonetheless that death rates cannot be “suspected”.
Egypt is expected to register 20,000 Covid-19 cases, around 40 percent up from the current tally, on 27-28 May, the minister said.
The tally of infections will continue to rise through the first week of June, the minister said, with authorities hoping it would start to drop as of 7-10 June.
From 15 April to 20 May, the average rate of the daily increase in new infections in Egypt stood at 5-5.6 percent, down from 8-10 percent in the first two weeks of April.
Abdel Ghaffar sought to reassure the public that authorities are still able to contain the virus.
“The daily growth rate [in cases] remain within a safe range” and “within the capability of the health system,” the minister said, adding that it would be worrying if the rate of the daily rise in cases reaches 15-20 percent.
Each person infected with coronavirus in Egypt is passing the disease on to an estimated 1.4 people, as opposed to three people on average at current transmission rates in some countries, Abdel Ghaffar said.
When that number is below one percent, the pandemic can be considered to be receding, he added.
Out of the total confirmed cases in the country, 2,000 patients are being treated in isolation hospitals, 250-300 are in intensive care units (ICUs) and 50 need ventilators, the minister said.
The minister was speaking at the opening ceremony of a national housing project in Alexandria attended by El-Sisi and other top government officials.
The president said the infection rate is “normal”, adding that the behaviours of citizens can be decisive in helping decrease the rate of infections and alleviate the burden on health workers.
El-Sisi called on people to “pay attention and not take things casually."