People look at a man wearing a protective mask as a means of prevention against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Al Rahman mosque, after Friday prayers, in the southern suburb of Maadi, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt March 6, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt has said it has detected 12 new coronavirus cases on “a Nile cruise ship coming from Aswan to Luxor,” a joint statement by the health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) said, bringing the total number of cases observed in the country to 15.
Health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said the detection came after information from WHO that a Taiwanese-American tourist, who was on board the cruise, had tested positive after returning home end February.
She has been confirmed as an index case, a first documented patient in the onset of an epidemiological investigation carried out by Egypt on the cruise ship.
Egypt had previously provided, in an epidemiological inquiry into recent reported cases in several countries, a breakdown of the nationalities of passengers who were aboard the ship from 5-19 February, including 11 from France, 31 from the US, seven from Canada, three from China, two from Malaysia and one from Bangladesh.
A security source told Al-Ahram Arabic website on Friday that the Nile cruise ship has been evacuated in order to sterilise and disinfect it.
The process is being carried out in the El-Baghdadi area, which is located 20 kilometres from the city of Luxor.
The source said that the detected cases were now in Luxor, ahead of the planned transfer to an isolation hospital.
The ship had arrived in Luxor on Thursday following a three-day trip in Aswan.
While in Aswan, the passengers had visited several historical sites in the city, including Kom Ombo and Edfu, before travelling to Esna and Luxor. However, the 12 cases, all Egyptian workers on the ship, tested positive after a PCR test was carried out following the conclusion of the 14-day incubation period.
Megahed said the ministry has followed up on medical conditions of those who were in contact with the tourist over the past 14 days and they did not show any symptoms.
The 12 cases are set to be referred to an isolation hospital, with others believed to be in contact with them currently placed in quarantine for 14 days, to follow up on their health conditions.
The statement didn't clarify how many passengers were on the cruise at the time of detection or their nationalities.
Friday's announcement comes one day after Egypt announced the first confirmed case in the country of an Egyptian, a recent returnee from Europe.
The two previous cases were both foreign nationals; one has since recovered.
John Jabbour, the WHO representative in Egypt, said the detection of the cases confirms the efficiency of Egypt's preventive plan to combat the disease and deal with infected cases following their detection.
He praised Egypt's transparency and fast response in notifying the WHO about the cases, the statement said.