More than 45,000 people have registered on Egypt’s Health Ministry’s designated website to receive the coronavirus vaccine during the first 12 hours of the website’s launch, according to the ministry.
This comes almost a year after Egypt detected its first coronavirus case and coincides with passing the peak of the second wave of the virus, which hit the country in late November.
The ministry explained that 6,615 medical staff members, 32,172 patients with chronic diseases, and 6,642 elderly people registered on the website (http://www.egcovac.mohp.gov.eg/)
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health Khaled Megahed revealed that the total number of submissions had exceeded 68,000 24 hours after launching the website.
He said a text message would be sent on mobile phones to the applicants after processing their requests within 72 hours of submission, confirming the date and location for receiving the first shot.
The expansion in the vaccination campaign through the website started early this week and follows the ministry’s provision of the vaccine to medical staff in 363 coronavirus-designated hospitals, a process that started in mid-January using the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.
The prioritised groups, whom the ministry dubs as eligible categories to get the vaccine through the website submission, are healthcare workers, and then the most vulnerable to infection from patients with chronic illnesses, and the elderly.
Megahed indicated that an office would be allocated in health units and hospitals nationwide to allow those who couldn’t access the website to register and reserve their shots of the vaccine.
The ministry had announced that at a later stage in the vaccination campaign anyone can apply to take the vaccine via the website.
In late February, Health Minister Hala Zayed said that after the expansion of the vaccination campaign from medical workers to regular citizens, the vaccines would cost no more than LE200 for two shots, with needy families and individuals exempted from the charge.
The Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) approved in February the emergency use of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine nearly a month after permitting the emergency treatment of Sinopharm and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The country has thus far received 350,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine in two separate consecutive shipments, and 50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Sputnik vaccine has not yet been delivered to Egypt, but Russia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund announced in September last year it had agreed to supply Egypt with 25 million doses.
After passing the peak of the second wave, Egypt has been recording a daily infection rate fluctuating around 600 cases since late January. It had by Monday 1 March registered 183,010 cases, including 141,347 recoveries and 10,736 fatalities. Egypt first discovered the virus in the country in February last year.
Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) stated in a study issued on 27 February that Egypt’s second coronavirus wave has been more widespread and dangerous than the first wave.
The study, conducted between 14 October and 29 December, justified its conclusion by the fact that the second wave started in the winter and displayed different symptoms, and also because of the public’s non-adherence to precautionary measures.
People aged 46 and above represented 91.5 per cent of coronavirus-related deaths in Egypt during the timeframe of the study. Cairo governorate had the largest number of coronavirus infections nationwide, while Alexandria had the largest death toll. The percentage of coronavirus infections among men was slightly higher than among women, due to the fact that immune responses in females are higher than in males.
According to the study, Egypt came in 64th worldwide in terms of the number of detected cases during the time the study came out. It was third in Africa and 12th among Arab states.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli remarked in late February that Egypt had survived the Covid-19 crisis with “minimum losses” compared to other countries around the world.
Egypt has not reinstated a full or partial lockdown during the second wave of the pandemic, unlike during the first wave that saw the imposition of a partial lockdown from late March to late June 2020.
“The Egyptian government does not have the luxury of imposing a full lockdown [during the second wave] that would affect the lives of many people, taking into consideration the seasonal and per-diem nature of many jobs in various sectors,” Madbouli said, explaining that the government had to make a decision that would achieve a balance between protecting health and not harming the livelihood of citizens.
Thus, Egypt was one of the few countries that managed to achieve a positive economic growth rate, unlike most countries around the world, the premier said. Moreover, according to the health minister, the country has provided $4 million in medical aid to 30 African countries.
Meanwhile, the minister expected that following the end of the second wave the number of coronavirus infections in Egypt “is expected to surge again by April and the curve will decline in May”.
Despite Zayed’s forecast, the Endowments Ministry announced in late February that Taraweeh prayers during the month of Ramadan — scheduled to start in April — would be permitted to be held in mosques currently allowed to open for Friday noon prayers.
The move, which was not approved during the same month last year, was justified by Nouh Essawi, the endowments under-secretary for mosque affairs, who said mosques allowed to hold Friday noon prayers were strictly adopting the preventive measures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Last year’s Taraweeh, considered the most spiritual prayers held during Ramadan, were performed only by a mosque imam and two mosque workers, and broadcast on Al-Quran Al-Kareem radio station. Prayers were banned for the masses as Egypt stopped all congregational religious activities nationwide to curb the spread of the virus in the overpopulated country.
The temporary closure of mosques was annulled in late June allowing major mosques to reopen for daily prayers, with weekly Friday prayers resuming in late August.
Essawi was quoted by the state-run MENA agency as saying that it was preferable for worshippers to pray Taraweeh at home amid the pandemic crisis.
The shrines, community centres, and bathrooms in mosques would remain closed during the coming holy month.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 March, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly