Egypt reports 40 new coronavirus cases, 6 fatalities: Health ministry

Ahmed Morsy , Saturday 28 Mar 2020

The 40 new patients are Egyptians, except for one Jordanian citizen, and all had come in contact with previously detected cases

A member of medical team sprays disinfectant as a precautionary move amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at the underground Al Shohadaa "Martyrs" metro station in Cairo, Egypt March 22, 2020. (Reuters)

Egypt's health ministry announced on Saturday six more deaths from the coronavirus and the detection of 40 new infections, bringing the total to 576 cases, including 36 fatalities.

The 40 new coronavirus patients are Egyptians, except for one Jordanian citizen, and all had come in contact with previously detected cases, the ministry said in a statement.

According to Health Minister Hala Zayed, more than 70 percent of the cases detected had come in contact with previously identified carriers. Others tested positive after arriving from abroad.

The health ministry announced yesterday that it has extended the home quarantine period mandated for arrivals from abroad to 28 days instead of two weeks.

The ministry’s statement on Saturday said that the six new deaths were five Egyptians aged between 57-78 years and a 73-year-old Italian man. The six deceased patients were from the capital Cairo, Damietta, Minya and Port Said governorates.

The statement added that six other patients have recovered and been released from quarantine hospitals, bringing the total to 121 recoveries.

Egypt has prepared 27 hospitals nationwide to treat coronavirus patients, and six of these hospitals are currently being used to treat those infected with the virus, with an occupancy rate of 50 to 60 percent, according to the health minister.

"For phase two of the pandemic, the clusters phase, we have 27 isolation hospitals already prepared in all 27 governorates," Minister Zayed said.

Egypt has prepared three phases to combat the epidemic, and the government has moved into the second phase, the prime minister said earlier this month after the country saw 109 cases nationwide.

Egypt has increased testing labs from one central lab in Cairo to 23 in the same number of governorates, and is increasing the number of labs to cover all 27 governorates by mid-week.

The country, which has so far detected 576 coronavirus cases, has conducted around 20,000 tests.

The minister said that tests are only being performed on those who came in contact with previously detected cases as well as on people coming from countries that have large outbreaks.

On 24 March, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced a curfew from 7pm to 6am for two weeks as part of stricter measures to limit the spread of the virus.

During curfew hours, all mass public and private transport is suspended and all shops and malls are closed, while supermarkets, pharmacies and bakeries remain open.

On Saturday morning, the Red Sea governorate closed all its beaches until further notice after people had flocked to the beaches during daytime hours.

Authorities have warned that those who break the curfew are subject to penalties under the country’s emergency law, which range from a fine of EGP 4,000 ($253) to imprisonment.

The prime minister had urged Egyptians earlier to comply with the new measures, warning that the country could reach the "dangerous" milestone of 1,000 infections.

On the other hand, due to the heavy traffic on the Cairo underground metro prior to curfew hours, Transport Minister Kamel El-Wazir said that the number of trains on each line has been increased to lessen overcrowding, and the time between train arrivals has been reduced from four to two minutes.

The underground metro's operating hours have been limited to be from 6am to 6:30pm daily, down from the regular operating time of 5:30am to 1am.

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