File: Ahmed Al-Mandhari the UN)he WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean (Courtesy of the UN)
As of 6 January, Egypt has been among the countries with the highest reported number of coronavirus-related deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean region, after Iran, Iraq and Pakistan, the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) said.
While Egypt has reported so far 8,085 coronavirus deaths as of 8 January, 56,018 deaths have been reported in Iran, 12,877 deaths in Iraq and 10,558 in Afghanistan.
Since late December, Egypt has been facing a second wave of the deadly virus, with the government announcing extra measures to curb the heavy surge in daily cases and deaths.
Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said in the report that the coronavirus situation in the Eastern Mediterranean region is widely variable from one country to another. He noted that countries like Egypt and Bahrain are showing an upward trend.
On the other hand, countries like Tunisia and United Arab Emirates have shown a high level of stability in the coronavirus situation. Other countries like Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are also showing a stable situation but to a lesser degree, Al-Mandhari added.
Concerning the new variant of SARS-COV 2, Al-Mandhari warned of its “greater transmissibility,” noting that Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE have already reported cases of infections with the new variant.
He also warned of the “high risk” of finding this new strain in other states in the Eastern Mediterranean region, unless effective public health and social measures are carried out.
If we do not, we risk further resurgence of cases, Al-Mandhari warned.
He affirmed that the WHO continues to work closely with the states in the Eastern Mediterranean region, with the aim of detecting and monitoring mutations.
Al-Mandhari said approved coronavirus vaccine doses will only be available for the most vulnerable groups in the coming months, and may then become available for the rest of the population after many more months.
“While news of an approved vaccine is welcome, it is still too early to celebrate in our region, where millions have been infected, and tens of millions more remain at risk,” Al-Mandhari said.
He urged all countries of the region to stick to coronavirus prevention and control measures “that we know can protect us and our loved ones against COVID-19.”
Of course, we must remain vigilant and continue to apply the public health and social measures that we know work against the virus, Al-Mandhari added.
Egypt’s Presidential Adviser for Health Affairs Mohamed Awad Tag El-Din said on Friday that Egypt officially contracted with the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) to secure for Egypt 20 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine.
Egypt already received a first 50,000-dose batch of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm on 10 December.
The Chinese pharma giant said in late December that phase 3 trials of its vaccine found it was 79 percent effective.
Health Minister Hala Zayed announced earlier this month that the vaccination process is expected to start for priority groups in mid-January.
Vaccine doses will first be provided to medical staff at quarantine, fever and chest hospitals, then patients suffering from cancer or kidney or immunity problems, patients with chronic diseases, and the elderly.
Eventually all citizens above 18 will be able to be vaccinated.
The vaccination process remains optional.