People are pictured wearing protective face masks, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before iftar, or breaking fast, during the holy month of Ramadan, in Cairo, Egypt May 21, 2020.(Reuters)
Egypt detected 783 new coronavirus cases on Friday, marking another single-day high and bringing its total number of infections to 15,786, the health ministry announced.
The ministry also reported 11 new deaths as total fatalities from the virus reached 707. It also said in a statement that 157 patients have been discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 4,374.
Health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said the number of people whose test results have turned from positive to negative, including the 4,374 recoveries, has now reached 4960.
Friday's toll comes one day after officials suggested that the real number of coronavirus cases could be higher than number of cases officially detected.
Egypt's Minister of Higher Education Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said during a Thursday event attended by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that the real number of coronavirus infections in Egypt could be over 71,000.
He added that the number of confirmed cases in the country is predicted to reach 20,000 next week, reasoning the outbreak estimates to a "hypothetical model".
This estimated outbreak size is, according to Abdel Ghaffar, “on the assumption we are fivefold lower [in official records] than numbers existing now.”
He 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”.
Despite lockdown measures imposed in March to contain the spread of the virus, Egypt’s infections tally continued to spike after it reached its 1,000 infections toll milestone on 4 April following the detection of its first case on 14 February.
The rise in cases has sparked fears and worries that an ailing medical sector could be overwhelmed as cases among medical staff too continue to increase.
Egypt hopes that its stricter measures during the Eid Al-Fitr religious holiday, including extending its curfew hours and a full suspension of public transportation, would help in curbing the spread of the virus.
The nationwide curfew will begin at 5 pm instead of the current 9 pm starting next Sunday – expected to be the first day of Eid – until Friday.
The extension comes under measures to curtail the spread of the virus during Eid Al-Fitr, which officials say poses a risk of a surge in infections due to traditions of gatherings during the festive feast.