Egyptian Minister of Health Hala Zayed said on Saturday that all the workers in tourism facilities, establishments, and related activities in the Red Sea and South Sinai governorates will have been vaccinated by Thursday, 29 April.
Zayed made the announcement at a press conference in which she hailed the Egyptian-Russian decision to resume direct flights between the two countries.
On Friday, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his Russian counterpart President Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone call to resume direct flights between Russia and Egypt's Red Sea airports that have been suspended since October 2015.
At the press conference, Zayed said that “despite the vaccination campaigns, the third wave is globally seeing a rise of 10 percent and seven percent in infections and deaths, respectively, than previous waves."
“This is also the case in Egypt in the absence of a lockdown and the continuation of the tourism movement,” said Zayed, revealing that the country has a steady but slight weekly increase in the infection rate with 10 percent more than last week, and five percent hike than the previous one.
The ministry has allocated 50 percent of the country’s total hospital beds to coronavirus patients, and only 47 percent out of them are currently occupied, Zayed noted.
Egypt, which has yet to hit the peak of the third wave, has been approaching the 900-mark of daily cases since early April and has so far reported 220,658 infections, including 166,024 recoveries and 12,959 deaths. The lax preventive measures people are adopting during Ramadan have been blamed for the mounting number of infections in Egypt.
The current hike in infection rate, Zayed said, was expected in light of the Muslim and Christian religious festivals nowadays when traditionally families gather and exchange visits.
As Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan, Christians will observe the Holy Week starting 25 April and Easter on 1 May.
Though the government is betting on public awareness and its mass vaccination campaign to restrain the spread of the virus, Zayed said both factors suffer from deficiencies.
“Coffee shops, restaurants, and malls are crowded nowadays and there is a lax adherence to precautionary measures. Last year, these establishments were shut down. It is in your best interest to keep them open in the meantime, but stick to the precautions,” Zayed addressed owners of business venues.
Unlike last year, when the first wave of the pandemic was met with a night-time curfew, the ongoing third wave sees shops and malls open to 11pm on weekdays and midnight during weekends, while coffee shops and restaurants remain open from 5pm to 1am throughout the week.
Zayed noted that “many citizens and medical staff are reluctant to take the vaccine.”
“Among the total medical staff members nationwide, no more than 50 percent have registered and only 60 percent out of them have been vaccinated,” Zayed said, urging medical staff members and citizens to register and take the vaccine.
According to the health ministry, until 18 April a total of 660,000 Egyptians have been vaccinated and more than 1.5 million people have registered for vaccination since the ministry launched its website http://www.egcovac.mohp.gov.eg/
The country has been using the Chinese Sinopharm and the Indian-British AstraZeneca vaccine in its mass vaccination campaign. It has so far received over 1.5 million doses of both vaccines, out of the 100 million doses it has contracted to get, Zayed said.
On Friday, Zayed stated that the first five million doses of Sinovac vaccine will be locally produced within two months as per the agreement Egypt’s VACSERA signed on Wednesday with China’s Sinovac biopharmaceutical company that allows the production of 40 million doses this year.
To achieve Egypt’s goal of self-sufficiency and later on export to African countries, another agreement was signed on Thursday between Minapharm pharmaceutical company and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to manufacture over 40 million doses annually of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine in Cairo.
The Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) approved the Russian vaccine for emergency use in February, a month after approving the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines.