Around 29 million Egyptians were fully vaccinated
“Egypt is now witnessing the fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic and it is difficult to determine whether we are at the peak,” Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar, official spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Abdel-Ghaffar does, however, expect the rate of daily infections to recede by the end of the month.
Egypt is currently battling a spike in Omicron variant infections, with more than 2,000 cases daily since late January. The highest-ever daily toll was recorded on 6 February, with 2,301 cases.
“Though we have a high rate of daily infections, hospital admissions and the need for ventilators have not increased as dramatically,” said Abdel-Ghaffar.
One of the reasons for the low rate of hospitalisation, he says, is increased vaccination uptake, which has now reached 43 per cent of eligible citizens, and in the second half of 2022 is planned to reach 70 per cent.
Egypt, Abdel-Ghaffar adds, currently has enough vaccine doses available to vaccinate 52 million people.
On Tuesday the Health Ministry reported that 29.1 million Egyptians were fully vaccinated, 38.6 million had received an initial shot, and 779,947 had received booster shots.
Abdel-Ghaffar also noted that the less severe symptoms associated with the Omicron variant have contributed to the low rates of hospitalisation.
A majority of cases now home-isolate rather than being hospitalised, he said. The Health Ministry has allocated a SMS number (1440) and hotline (105) for medical guidance and consultation for people being treated at home.
According to the Health Ministry, the most common Omicron symptoms include a runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, and a sore throat.
The Health Ministry updated its advice in mid-January, urging those who suffer from common cold symptoms to assume they have Covid-19 and self-isolate and avoid sharing personal items with family members.
Ashraf Hatem, a former minister of health and head of the parliament’s Health Committee, said two factors can differentiate coronavirus infection from flu. “The first thing to consider is whether someone with flu-like symptoms has come into contact with a confirmed coronavirus case,” he said. The second consideration is whether or not their symptoms include body aches.
Egypt’s number of coronavirus-linked daily deaths has been recently hovering around 60. On 10 February, 62 deaths were recorded, the highest in a single day since 63 deaths were announced on 1 December last year.
Vaccination, and adhering to strict precautionary measures, remains important during the coming period, stressed Abdel-Ghaffar.
As viruses mutate in an attempt to spread to greater numbers of hosts they often become less severe, points out Islam Anan, a pharmacoepidemiology and pharma-economics lecturer at Ain Shams University. The less severe symptoms of Omicron might well signal the beginning of the end of coronavirus, which Anan says could, by the end of 2022, be treated like other seasonal viruses, with an annual vaccine.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.