The Egyptian governorate of Sohag has been witnessing "a slight but continuous" increase in the number of coronavirus infections, the health minister said on Wednesday amid reports of an "unprecedented rise" in COVID-19 cases in the Upper Egyptian governorate.
"While Sohag's weekly infection rate during the first wave reached 600 cases, it has been witnessing a slight but continuous increase in the recent period at a rate of 400-450 cases per week amid the third wave of the virus," Health Minister Hala Zayed said in a statement.
Egypt, which has yet to hit the peak of the third wave, had been detecting more than 1,700 coronavirus cases daily during last summer's peak of first wave, compared to the more recent announced daily cases that has been hovering around 800 cases.
Minister Zayed's description of the ongoing situation in Sohag came in response to recent reports of an "abnormal increase in infections and deaths" in the governorate.
On Sunday, Mahmoud Fahmy, the head of the Doctors Syndicate in Sohag, said in TV statements that he had requested that the governor of Sohag impose a curfew “before it is too late,” but his call was rebuffed.
“During the last 48 hours, we lost five doctors due to coronavirus. There is an abnormal increase in infections and deaths in the governorate,” Fahmy said, adding that isolation hospitals are full, and the governorate is short on ventilators due to the steady rise in cases.
While Sohag’s MP Mostafa Salem echoed the same warning, he also asked the education ministry to suspend classes and for the health ministry to increase the number of isolation hospitals.
“Throughout the day, I receive calls from citizens asking for beds in isolation hospitals and ICUs,” Salem told Extra News channel on Sunday. He also urged the health ministry to provide more vaccination unites since the “governorate of 5.5 million citizens only has three vaccination centres.”
On Wednesday, the health minister ordered the increase of coronavirus-designated hospitals in the governorate to 17, and to increase ICU beds to 166 and ventilators to 58, instead of 100 and 48 respectively.
Zayed's statements came during her meeting with officials from the Directorate of Health Affairs in Sohag, where she affirmed the current availability of 1,100 vacant hospital beds, 82 ICU beds and 23 ventilators in the governorate's hospitals.
The minister has directed the formation of a central operational room in Sohag to designate patients to hospitals according to their health status and hospital occupancy rates.
Occupancy rates in fever and chest hospitals in Sohag have ranged from 80 to 90 percent, while other hospitals in the same governorate have hosted lower percentages, the ministry statement said.
Head of the Doctors Syndicate in Sohag Fahmy has blamed “the lack of public awareness” during Ramadan for the high infection rate in Sohag, and Minister Zayed has ordered intensifying awareness campaigns about precautionary measures.
During the holy month of Ramadan, Egyptians tend to have social gatherings for Iftar and Sohour.
Unlike during last year’s Ramadan, which came during the first wave of COVID-19 with a night-time curfew and the closure of mosques, the Taraweeh – considered the most spiritual mass prayers held during the holy month – are now allowed provided they do not exceed half an hour.
Egypt has so far detected 218,041 coronavirus cases, including 12,820 fatalities and 164,368 recoveries.