Egypt is screening travellers coming from China and other destinations that have reported cases of the new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Suspected cases are isolated and transferred to Al-Abbasiya Fever Hospital. Health Ministry doctors are undertaking screenings at airports and flight attendants have been asked to report symptoms among passengers. Air and sea ports are on high alert as a precautionary measure though the virus has yet to make an appearance in Egypt.
Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed the existence of the new virus, social media has been flooded with posts on ways to minimise chances of infection. Immediately after the WHO confirmation, Health Minister Hala Zayed held a meeting with WHO officials in Egypt to formulate plans for early detection and to raise the degree of readiness at quarantine departments and hospitals.
Assistant Minister of Health for Preventive Medicine Alaa Eid said hospitals across the country have been tasked with taking precautionary measures.
“Zayed declared a state of emergency at Egypt’s air, maritime and land borders,” said Eid. At a press conference, Zayed said the Ministry of Health has already started awareness raising programmes about the virus, precautionary measures and treatment.
Symptoms of 2019-nCoV infection include pneumonia, coughs, fever and respiratory difficulties. Severe cases can cause organ failure. Virus symptoms may appear in as little as two days after infection or as long as 14. WHO Representative in Egypt John Jabbour confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus. He told Al-Ahram Weekly that as yet no cases have been reported in the Middle East.
“WHO is following the situation in Egypt closely with the ministry’s Preventive Medicine Sector. People should pay attention to hand and respiratory hygiene, food safety and avoid mass gatherings as much as possible,” said Jabbour.
According to China’s state media, Coronavirus has killed 81 people and infected more than 2,800. The actual number to have contracted the virus could be much more since people with mild symptoms may not be included. Modelling by WHO experts at Imperial College London suggests there could be 4,000 cases.
The virus was first detected on 31 December in the Chinese city of Wuhan in Hubei province. It has since spread to other Chinese cities and overseas. Nepal, Bali, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have confirmed multiple cases. The US, France, Ivory Coast, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan have each reported one case.
Chinese authorities have quarantined Wuhan and at least 11 other cities have been placed in lockdown in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.