Egypt's Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday in a joint statement that the Chinese citizen who was earlier announced to be carrying the novel coronavirus has tested negative for it.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for the foreigner presented negative results for the new Cobid-19 (coronavirus), 48 hours after he was put into isolation in hospital, the joint statement said.
Earlier this week Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed confirmed the first and so far only case of Corvid-19 in Egypt, a Chinese citizen who arrived in the country late last month. The Chinese national had shown no symptoms on entry. The Health Ministry has now quarantined the Chinese citizen. All the people who have interacted with the confirmed case have tested negative for the virus though they are required to remain in their homes for two-weeks and are being monitored for the infection.
According to Khaled Megahed, official spokesman for the Health Ministry, the World Health Organization (WHO) was immediately informed. All required measures have been taken in cooperation with WHO. The infected person was transferred to the Marsa Matrouh hospital for two weeks in order to be quarantined and monitored and is in a stable condition.
WHO Egypt representative John Jabbour commended Egypt’s transparency and keenness to inform WHO immediately. According to Jabbour Egypt is among countries to have developed preventive strategies to defeat the virus.
“WHO has provided Egypt with accurate detectors to discover any cases infected with the new deadly virus,” said Jabbour.
The Chinese national is the first case in Egypt and Africa to test positive for the virus. The Ministry of Health has now evacuated and sterilised the building in which the patient was living.
Jabbour says the number of Corvid-19 cases in the Middle East and North Africa has now reached 10, one in Egypt and nine in the United Arab Emirates.
“The majority of cases are foreigners, mainly Chinese citizens, and none of them has died,” said Jabbour.
According to a report released by WHO on 17 February overall infections have increased to 73,336, of which 12,876 have already recovered and 1,874 died. Of the remaining 58,586 patients currently infected 80 per cent are mild and 20 per cent in a critical condition.
Following the announcement of Egypt’s first positive case the Chinese Embassy in Cairo issued a press release saying “there is continuous bilateral cooperation with Egypt in an attempt to protect citizens’ public health”.
On Monday, Zayed announced at a press conference that the ministry has ended the 14-day quarantine for 302 Egyptians who had returned to Egypt from the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The minister confirmed that all tests conducted on them during the 14-day quarantine period, in which the coronavirus incubates, have shown that they are free of the virus or any other infectious diseases.
The 302 citizens on the same day of the announcement have left Al-Negelah Central Hospital in Marsa Matrouh, which was designated by the government as a quarantine hospital, and have been taken by the ministry’s buses to their residences in Cairo and Alexandria.
The Ministry of Health has intensified precautionary measures at schools following the start of the new term on 9 February. They include training school medical teams to treat infectious diseases, raising awareness about preventive and precautionary measures against communicable diseases and sterilising school buildings.
Megahed said that in the event of a suspected case at a school, whether student or a staff member, the suspect will be immediately isolated until proper procedures can be taken. People who have contact with the case will also be monitored. Ill students and staff are required to take the sick leave recommended by doctors and stay at home for at least 14 days.
“School students and teachers must also attend classes wearing face masks as a precautionary measure,” said Megahed.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 February, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Reducing risks