Egypt: On alert for new Covid variant

Reem Leila , Friday 6 Jan 2023

Egypt is taking precautionary measures against a new Covid-19 variant from China.



News of the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus which has caused millions of infections in China is worrying policy-makers across the globe. The new strain, called BF.7, is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant BA.5, according to CBS News. An infected person will transmit the virus to an average of 10 to 18.6 other people, it adds.

According to Hossam Hosni, head of the Health Ministry’s scientific committee to combat the coronavirus, BF.7 has not been detected in Egypt. China saw Covid-19 infections surging after it abandoned its zero-Covidpolicy following unprecedented protests.

China is currently witnessing a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases.The number of infections exceeded 250 million cases last month, as millions were infected per day, Hosni noted. However,he said its symptoms are less severe, and so is its impact on the respiratory system, than that of Covid-19, but its danger lies in the speed of its spread among people.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Population Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar noted that symptoms of the new variant which may extend between five and seven days after catching the infection are similar to that of Covid-19: fever, body fatigue, sore throat, cough, and difficulty in breathing. The new variant’s mortality rate is minimal, Abdel-Ghaffar said.

Currently the ministry, according to Abdel-Ghaffar, is encouraging people to get booster shots of Covid19 vaccine to reduce the new variant’s symptoms. This is in addition to abiding by Covid-19 precautionary measures. Citizens must return to wearing face masks, adhere to social distancing, wash hands with running water and soap, and use disinfectants when water and soap are not available, Abdel-Ghaffar said.

Abdel-Ghaffar pointed out that 73 per cent of targeted people had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 45 per cent are fully vaccinated. According to the latest statistics released by the WHO on 23 December 2022, there have been 515,493 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 24,801 deaths in Egypt since the breakout of the pandemic, Abdel-Ghaffar said, adding that 100,993,230 vaccine doses had been administered by 17 December.

Hosni noted that the government has started using smears for all citizens arriving from China to detect the new strain. “Though all precautionary measures will not prevent the advent of the BF.7 in Egypt, it is better to detect it as early as possible.”

Due to the virus’ swift spread many countries, including the US, Japan, Britain, India, South Korea, Taiwan, and Italy have announced testing requirements for passengers from China. “Egypt is doing the same,” Hosni said. In a more drastic move, Morocco has banned all arrivals from China amid growing concern over the Covid-19 surge in the Asian country.

Director-General of the WHOTedrosAdhanomGhebreyesus expressed his “deep concern” regarding the unprecedented wave of infections in China during a weekly press conference. “In order to properly conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation on the ground, WHO needs more detailed information on disease severity, hospital admissions and requirements for ICU support,” Ghebreyesus stressed.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 5 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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