According to data Ahram Online obtained in late December from the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, 33 percent of the documented cases of coronavirus among doctors in 2020 were in the 25-30 age group, with the majority -- 66 percent -- recorded among males.
“The figures could be higher," Nagwa El-Shafei, the undersecretary of the Medical Syndicate, told Ahram Online, adding that according to the estimates of the syndicate, the medical sector, including nurses, pharmacists, and administrators had not less than 10,000 coronavirus cases in 2020.
The syndicate noted that the figures represented only the documented cases reported by its members in Cairo and its branches in the governorates that received financial aid and pensions.
Even Egypt’s Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation reported that the registered numbers of coronavirus cases in Egypt are less than the actual numbers. The two bodies cited the reasons for the discrepancy in numbers that included the fact that many people depend on inhouse treatment and do not go to isolation hospitals except in critical cases.
Despite asserting that Egypt has the lowest coronavirus infection and death rates in relation to its population size, Minister of Health Hala Zayed said in a press conference in January that Egypt’s coronavirus cases are one-tenth of the country’s actual cases. This was the case all over the world, not only in Egypt, she added.
By the end of January, Egypt had documented 165,418 coronavirus cases, including 129,293 recoveries and 547 fatalities.
Documented cases of coronavirus among doctors
According to data released by the Medical Syndicate, the 25-30 age group tops the infection cases because young doctors stand in the front line of dealing with patients in hospitals.
In May 2020, the Egyptian Medical Syndicate got into a direct confrontation with the Ministry of Health over several issues, starting with the coronavirus protection protocols for medical teams.
The syndicate criticised the coronavirus protection protocols for medical teams adopted then by the health ministry that depended only on rapid tests and not the PCR tests. The syndicate considered the rapid tests less accurate despite their speed and depended on more PCR tests to ensure the safety of the medical teams.
The Ministry of Health did not only expand in PCR tests but also in coronavirus isolation hospitals across the country, and the following two months witnessed the peak in coronavirus cases in Egypt.
According to the Ministry of Health in December 2020, 55 percent of the documented cases in Egypt were in the age groups above 50, while 25 percent of the total infected cases were in the 15-35 age group.
The syndicate revealed that 66 percent of the documented infections were among male doctors, numbering 4,021.
Cairo was listed first among other governorates when it comes to the number of coronavirus cases among doctors, according to the figures provided by the syndicate in 2020, with 1,582 cases out of 6,064 recorded cases, or 26 percent of the total cases.
Following Cairo was Giza with 475 cases, Assiut 409, and Gharbiya 360.
Port Said, which recorded 17 infections among doctors, witnessed the first death of a practicing doctor in the country by the coronavirus in March 2020.
Port Said was followed by South Sinai, 12 infections, and North Sinai, five.
It is no surprise that Cairo tops the governorates and North Sinai comes in last. The two governorates, after all, recorded the highest and lowest infections, respectively, among the general public, according to the health ministry data in late December 2020.
COVID-19 cases per Egyptian governorates
According to the data of the Medical Syndicate and its branches nationwide, 93 percent of the infections, or 5,643 cases, was among practicing doctors, the rest, 421 cases, among doctors on pension.
General practice doctors topped the coronavirus infections with 46 percent, or 2,767 cases (1,062 among women and 1,704 among men) out of 6,064 cases.
These were followed by paediatricians with 443 cases, internal medicine doctors 370 cases, obstetrics and gynaecology doctors 350 cases, general surgery 250 cases, cardiology and angiology 154 cases, orthopedics 142 cases, and chest diseases and tuberculosis, 137 cases.
Fatalities among members of the Medical Syndicate
On 30 March 2020, the Egyptian Medical Syndicate announced the death of 57-year-old doctor Ahmed Al-Lawah due to coronavirus complications in Port Said. The pathologist contracted the virus in Port Said from a foreign coronavirus patient who went to his clinic for tests.
Late Dr Ahmed el-Lawah attending the Port Said Pediatrics Conference in March 2020 days before his infection "Photo: AP"
Then there was an avalanche of deaths among Egypt's medical teams who sacrificed their lives to treat coronavirus patients. The Medical Syndicate's Facebook page became a collection of obituaries with the names and faces of deceased doctors from all specialisations, ages, and governorates.
In late December, the syndicate reported 125 fatalities, but its most recent data showed deaths among doctors have surpassed 280. Factoring in the doctors on pension, the figure rises to 377 fatalities on 18 February.
The figures do not include the doctors or medical workers who passed away due to coronavirus complications while working abroad.
According to the data sheet received by Ahram Online, the 61-70 age group had the highest rate of fatalities, making up 35 percent of the total fatalities documented among doctors by the Medical Syndicate.
According to the Egyptian health ministry’s official figures in December 2020, some 33-35 percent of the fatalities occurred among the age group above 50.
Fatalities among general practitioners were the highest, 26 cases, followed by general surgery 17, internal medicine 17, and paediatrics, 13.
Out of the 125 fatalities initially recorded among doctors, 117 were men.
According to the geographical distribution, Cairo may top the governorates but 52 cases had unspecified locations, meaning their governorates of birth and work are different.
In the past month, the Egyptian Ministry of Health started the first stage of vaccination using China’s Sinopharm targeting the medical staff. The vaccination is not mandatory.
The total number of medical workers targeted for vaccination in chest and fever hospitals is 207,000, including doctors, nurses, administrators, and workers.
The vaccination aims to provide protection for Egypt’s first line of defence against the coronavirus pandemic.