Egypt’s coronavirus case numbers are falling. The average number of daily cases dropped from 1,200 in mid-May to 800 in the first week of June, leading to hopes the third wave of the pandemic is receding.
Restrictive measures introduced on 6 May have been eased. Instead of closing at 9pm, shops and malls are now allowed to open till 11pm on weekdays and until midnight during weekends. Coffee shops and restaurants can remain open until 1am throughout the week.
Weddings and funerals in closed halls, however, remain banned.
Egypt, which aims to vaccinate 40 per cent of its 100 million-plus population by the end of this year, increased its stock of vaccines to five million doses on Monday after receiving the first shipment of 500,000 doses of Beijing-based Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine.
The Sinovac vaccine, approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use on 1 June and by the Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) in April, is now being manufactured locally by VACSERA, with the first batch — two million doses — due on 15 June. Production is expected to reach 40 doses by the end of the year.
The Sinovac jab is an inactivated vaccine and, according to the WHO, its easy storage requirements make it “very manageable, and particularly suitable” for low-resource settings, preventing symptomatic disease in 51 per cent of those vaccinated and avoiding severe Covid-19 in 100 per cent of the studied population. The WHO recommends the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine for use in adults 18 years and older.
Health Minister Hala Zayed, who wants Egypt to become an African hub for vaccine production, announced on Monday that a shipment of 3,000 litres of raw materials, enough to produce another 4.2 million doses of Sinovac, are due to be delivered late-June.
According to WHO figures, Egypt has vaccinated more than 2.5 million people since January at 406 centres nationwide, using the WHO-approved Chinese Sinopharm and UK AstraZeneca vaccines.
Zayed announced last week that Egypt is scheduled to receive an additional million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, 500,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, and 1.9 million doses of AstraZeneca this month.
Egypt received its first shipment of COVAX vaccines — 854,400 doses of AstraZeneca — in April as part of the 40 million doses it has been promised by the global initiative.
The US Embassy in Cairo announced on 7 June that Egypt is on the US’ shortlist of allied states eligible to share six million vaccine shots.
“Egypt is on the list of partner countries for US vaccines. The US will share 80 million doses globally, five times more than any other country. Of the first batch of 25 million doses, 19 million will be sent to the COVAX initiative and six million will be provided for a list of regional priorities and beneficiaries of the allies, including Egypt,” the embassy said in a short statement.
Meanwhile, the UK added Egypt, along with six other countries, to its red list, obliging passengers to undergo an 11-day mandatory quarantine, starting on 8 June. Zayed described the listing as a surprise, and said representations had been made to the British Embassy in Egypt, and by the Egyptian Embassy in London, describing Egypt’s experience in managing the coronavirus crisis.
Passengers arriving in the UK from red list countries are required to stay in government-approved quarantine hotels for 11 days at a fixed cost of £1,750 per adult. They must also take two Covid-19 tests before departure and have proof of the negative results, and complete a passenger locator form.
The UK’s red list currently comprises 50 countries, including Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Ethiopia, Oman, Qatar, South Africa, Sudan, Turkey, UAE, and Uruguay.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly