Daily rates of Covid-19 infections are creeping up. They reached their lowest levels in March, when an average of 31 infections and four deaths were recorded. On Monday the figure had increased to 106 infections and six deaths, and the Ministry of Health has warned that a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections is expected in late September or early October, coinciding with the beginning of the academic year.
Students at public schools and universities are scheduled to return on 9 October, and international schools will start on 12 September. A handful of private universities say they will begin the new term in late September.
Noha Assem, an advisor to the Ministry of Health and Population, says health officials are increasingly concerned by the public’s failure to take precautionary measures. “Many people have abandoned the wearing of face masks, and basic precautions such as washing hands regularly and using hand sanitisers. People are acting as there is no coronavirus in the country,” she said.
According to Assem, a programme to vaccinate school staff is already underway and will be complete before the beginning of the new academic year.
“Egypt has been preparing for the arrival of the Delta variant, which has been recorded in 15 neighbouring countries, Tunisia among them. The Scientific Committee to Combat Coronavirus is updating the treatment protocol for people infected with coronavirus with the arrival of the new variant in mind,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the Delta variant spreads faster than other variants, and children are susceptible. Vaccination is essential.” Assem added that while no drug has been removed from existing Covid-19 protocols, immunity stimulant drugs have been added.
Health officials continue to beseech the public to wear face masks, maintain social distance and regularly wash their hands or use sanitiser.
Professor of chest diseases Khaireya Ebeid cautions that Egyptians returning from abroad, and from crowded local resorts, are already pushing the Covid-19 curve upwards. “We are already seeing an increase in infections, mostly among those who have not been vaccinated. Yet people still ask whether they should take the vaccine or not,” she says.
Only 2.7 per cent of Egypt’s population of 100+ million have been fully vaccinated, while 3.8 per cent have received one dose. The government’s target is to fully vaccinate 40 per cent of Egypt’s population by the end of the year, Khaled Megahed, official spokesman at the Ministry of Health said.
Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait revealed that, “in order to fulfil the presidential instructions to prioritise the health of citizens, especially those suffering from coronavirus, the health sector budget for 2021-22 has been set at LE275.6 billion of which LE3 billion has been spent on buying vaccines.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 August, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly