Egypt has real chance of stopping coronavirus transmission, but worse scenario still possible: WHO

Ahram Online , Monday 30 Mar 2020

A police officer stands near Tahrir square during the first day of a two-weeks night-time curfew whi
A police officer stands near Tahrir square during the first day of a two-weeks night-time curfew which was ordered by the Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt March 25, 2020. (Reuters)

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that Egypt has a real opportunity to stop the transmission of the coronavirus, yet it did not rule out the possibility of a large outbreak.

“We have a real opportunity to stop transmission,” said Yvan Hutin, director for communicable diseases at the WHO’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean during a conference in Cairo on Monday.

He did, however, warn that “there is also a scenario by which transmission could expand, leading to a large number of cases in the country.”

“While we are doing everything to avoid that, we also need to be prepared for that possibility,” he said in a statement.

These preparations include “planning for more isolation facilities for mild cases, more hospital beds for severe cases, and more intensive care beds for critical patients,” while following strong infection control measures, he said.

The WHO, which concluded a technical support mission to review the situation in Egypt last week, has hailed the measures the country has taken to slow down the spread of the virus. These include what Hutin described as “well organised management,” including through an Emergency Operation Centre and a health ministry call centre.

Rapid response teams are conducting “careful investigations” of cases and their contacts in a major step to break the chains of transmission, he said.

Egypt offers more than 20 sites to test patients in a “reliable way,” the statement added. The health ministry has said that central labs are planned to be increased to cover all of the country’s 27 governorates.

Hutin said the that the number of new cases detected since the first case was confirmed on 14 February suggest that “transmission is limited to chains of infection.”

“We have not seen a steep rise in the number of cases,” he said.

The organisation has agreed with the health ministry to continue to “search for cases everywhere” in an effort to bring about “the best scenario.”

The WHO also advised the public not to listen to self-proclaimed experts who share random information on social media.

Egypt has so far recorded 609 coronavirus cases, including 40 fatalities.

Last week, the WHO said that Egypt’s “strong disease surveillance system” and contact tracing efforts have proven effective “in controlling and managing sporadic cases and clusters before they can spread,” but added that further efforts are needed.

Egypt has adopted a set of preventative measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus, imposing a night-time curfew, halting air traffic, shutting mosques and churches and suspending classes at schools and universities.

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