Egypt s Health Minister Hala Zayed has appealed to suspected coronavirus cases to head to the nearest of 376 hospitals that have been designated to receive cases in an attempt to reduce the burden on hospitals specialised in fever and chest problems, the ministry said in a statement.
Zayed s statements were made during an inspection tour Tuesday of a number of hospitals across Cairo as part of efforts to monitor their performance.
The minister s call comes days after her remarks that "some families prefer to treat their infected member at home,” describing it as "a phenomenon,” adding that most cases come to hospitals very late.
"Anyone who has respiratory symptoms or a high fever should consider himself infected and has to go to the nearest hospital immediately," Zayed said earlier this week.
The call, however, came amid citizen complaints about a shortage of hospital beds, with some claiming they can barely find hospitals in which to treat their relatives.
The minister emphasised during her tour the increase in the number of beds in all hospitals that receive suspected and infected cases of coronavirus nationwide to more than 35,000 beds, and 5,800 ICU beds.
According to health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed, Zayed stated that coronavirus tests and also treatments are provided free of charge in the ministry s hospitals.
All general hospitals in Egypt started from 21 May to provide coronavirus tests, including conducting clinical examinations as well as running blood tests and chest x-rays, and PCR tests.
As for the cost of coronavirus treatment at private hospitals, the ministry announced on Monday setting a fixed cost for Covid-19 treatment at such facilities ranging from EGP 1,500 to EGP 10,000 (approximately $90 to $600) covering hospital services, medical supplies, doctors’ fees, accommodation, and testing.
The ministry s fixed prices were announced the day after prime ministerial directive to cap the cost of coronavirus treatment at private medical facilities to correct some "exaggerated prices."
Tuesday saw the detection of 1,152 new coronavirus infections – a decline for the second day in a row down from 1,536 on Sunday and 1,399 on Monday – in Egypt where it had taken the virus 50 days to reach the milestone of the first 1,000 infections nationwide since the detection of the first case on 14 February.
Despite the steady rise of infections Egypt has been witnessing in recent days, Zayed said that "we cannot confirm or deny that we are now witnessing the peak stage.”
"We will not be able to determine the peak stage until after it has passed and the rate of infections begins to decrease for two consecutive weeks," Zayed said Saturday, appealing to all citizens to adhere to wearing face masks or even "a piece of cotton cloth" before coming out of their homes.
Masks became mandatory, according to a cabinet decree, starting Saturday for workers or visitors at markets, shops, banks, governmental or private institutions, as well as for commuters taking public or private transportation with violators subject to a fine of up to EGP 4,000.
Egypt is expected to cancel the current seven-day quarantine period for Egyptians arriving from abroad, chairman of the state-owned EgyptAir Holding Company Roshdi Zakaria said on Monday.
Upon their arrival, returnees will undergo a coronavirus rapid test at the airport, and those who show no symptoms will spend a quarantine period at home, Zakaria explained in a phone call with CBC Extra TV channel.
Those who show coronavirus symptoms, however, will be transferred to isolation hospitals, he added.
In May, Egypt shortened a mandatory quarantine period for Egyptians arriving from abroad from 14 days to one week. Returnees who test negative by the end of the period were allowed to spend the rest of their quarantine at home.
The government is covering the quarantine cost of those staying at university hostels. Those willing to spend their quarantine period at designated hotels in the Mediterranean city of Marsa Alam will have to pay for their stay.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s civil aviation ministry will operate additional special flights in the upcoming two weeks to repatriate Egyptians stranded abroad.
The flights will fly to eight destinations including Beirut, Oman, Muscat, Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh, Baghdad and Sydney.
Egypt is mainly keeping its airspace open to cargo and domestic flights during the flight suspension, which has been in place since mid-March.
Egypt is just operating flights to repatriate its citizens from abroad and has returned home at least 12,000 Egyptians so far.
The country has signaled a “gradual resumption” of international flights in the second half of June or the first half of July, according to statements by Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad earlier this week.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Monday Egypt is expected to witness a surge in the number of coronavirus patients in the next two weeks.
Throughout the past week the country has been recording higher rates of the pandemic.
In his meeting with the governors via video conference, Madbouly said coronavirus cases were treated at quarantine hospitals only before the Islamic holiday of Eid El-Fitr, but that at present 320 hospitals affiliated to the Ministry of Health are screening and treating coronavirus patients.
Egypt has thus far recorded 24,985 coronavirus cases, including 6,037 fully recovered patients and 959 fatalities.
The meeting saw the return of Daqahaliya Governor Ayman Mokhtar who recovered from the virus, along with his wife, last week.
Egyptian hotels operating with a new reduced occupancy rate of 25% to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus have almost reached full capacity, a tourism ministry official told Reuters on Sunday.
Egypt suspended international flights in March and shut down restaurants, hotels and cafes in order to combat the pandemic. Although airports remain closed to all but domestic and repatriation flights, hotels were recently allowed to reopen at a quarter of their usual capacity if they met strict health and safety protocols.
Around 78 hotels, mostly along the Red Sea coast, met these rules and are currently operating with an occupancy rate of 20%-22%, said the ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. An additional 173 hotels across the country have applied for a licence to reopen and will be considered in the coming week, he added.
The government said it aimed to increase the permitted occupancy rate of hotels to 50% in June. Tourism is one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency and accounts for 5% of GDP.
Egypt has so far registered 23,449 cases of the new coronavirus including 913 deaths. Some of the first cases registered in the country were of foreign nationals.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi wrote on his Twitter and Facebook accounts on Thursday asking the Egyptian people to maintain their solidarity and to stand together at this “important moment” to face the coronavirus pandemic.
“As the efforts of the Egyptian state, the government and the people continue to face this pandemic, implement the development plans, and preserve the economic stability during the hardest circumstances, the enemies of the nation try to question the state’s achievements and efforts.
“I reassert my confidence in the Egyptian people who always demonstrate their strength in facing those campaigns; God bless Egypt and Egyptians,” El-Sisi wrote.
Egypt has until Wednesday recorded 19,666 coronavirus cases, including 5,205 fully recovered patients and 816 fatalities.
Initial investigation into the death of Dr Walid Yehia Abdel-Halim after he had contracted the coronavirus revealed that "some aspects of administrative deficiency" have occurred in dealing with the infected doctor at the hospital, the health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
In light of the inaccurate information circulated on some media outlets and social media platforms regarding the death of Abdel-Halim, a doctor at El-Munira General Hospital, a fact-finding committee was formed to determine the causes of his death following the Minister of Health Hala Zayed s directives to open an urgent and immediate investigation, the statement added.
The committee s initial investigation unveiled that on 18 May Abdel-Alim exhibited symptoms of fever. A swipe coronavirus test was carried out on the same day, the statement said.
On 19 May the result came back positive for coronavirus and the doctor was given the necessary treatment in line with the treatment protocol.
"As a result of a chest pain and shortness of breath, the doctor came to El-Munira Hospital on 22 May and stayed for one day before being transferred on Saturday morning, 23 May, to Nasr City Insurance Hospital [one of the isolation hospitals]," the ministry said, adding that he was given the necessary medications according to the ministry s treatment protocols.
Nevertheless, a cardiomyopathy occurred and Abdel-Halim did not respond to the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) attempts, leading to his death on Sunday, 24 May.
"The committee found through its initial investigations some administrative shortcomings in dealing with the case at the hospital," the ministry said without specifying which hospital.
The committee said "it is currently working on determining those responsible for these shortcomings" and the accountability of each of them in preparation for taking the necessary administrative measures towards them.
The ministry will announce these measures as soon as the committee concludes its investigations, the statement noted.
The death of Abdel-Halim sparked uproar among doctors across social media platforms as the medical staff "is not receiving the adequate care." There have been repeated calls for the ministry to allocate special hospitals for infected healthcare workers amid a surge in cases and reports of delayed tests or lack of beds at isolation hospitals.
In a statement on Monday, the Egyptian medical syndicate held the ministry "fully responsible" for the rise in coronavirus infections and deaths among medical staff which it said is the result of the ministry’s “inaction and negligence to protect them.”
According to the syndicate s figures issued on Monday, over 350 doctors have contracted the virus and 19 died. The ministry, however, mentioned a lower number on the same day saying that the pandemic has infected 291 health workers, including 69 physicians, and killed 11 among medical staff.
"The surge in cases is the result of the ministry’s refusal to conduct early tests to detect infections among hospital staff or for workers who came in contact with positive cases, and its failure to swiftly offer places for treating infected workers, the syndicate said.
The syndicate called on all doctors to insist on their right to ensure that all protective measures are implemented before they start their work, including access to personal protective gear, receiving the necessary training to deal with coronavirus cases in triage or isolation hospitals, undergoing tests if they show symptoms or have come into contact with positive cases without taking the necessary protective measures, and access to necessary supplies and medicines.
The syndicate reiterated its demand for designating special isolation hospitals for medics infected with the highly contagious virus.
In response, Zayed said in a statement on Monday that health authorities were “working hard to protect medical staff facing the coronavirus” and have 1amadopted all necessary precautions to do so, noting that all staff members undergo tests before entering and leaving hospitals.
"An immediate test is conducted for anyone showing symptoms while on duty. The ministry has intensified the [coronavirus] periodical tests carried out for medical staff, with 9,578 rapid tests and 8,913 PCR tests conducted so far," she said.
The statement said the ministry has designated a special 20-bed floor for infected staff in every quarantine hospital since the virus emerged in the country in February.
Egypt has until Tuesday recorded 797 coronavirus fatalities and 18,756 positive cases.
Egypt detected 789 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, its highest toll in a single day, hitting the 18,000 infections mark to report a total infection tally of 18,756, the health ministry announced.
The ministry also reported 14 new deaths, bringing the total deaths from the virus to 797
The statement said that 127 patients, have been discharged, bringing the total number of recoveries to 5027.
Health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said in the statement that the number of people whose test results have turned from positive to negative, including the 5027.recoveries, has now reached 5606
More to follow
As Egyptians have been under partial lockdown since March and schools and university students have since relied on E-learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, the usage of telecommunication services and internet consumption saw a heavy increase in May, Egypt s National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) said.
The NTRA attributed the high traffic to the considerable increase in the online streaming of TV shows during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
According to the NTRA s monthly report, international voice calls increased by four percent during Ramadan and 19 percent since the beginning of curfew in Egypt last March.
Local voice calls decreased by 1 percent during Ramadan and 7 percent since March.
The report recorded an increase in home internet usage by 12 percent during Ramadan, raising the usage rate since March to 99 percent.
The mobile internet usage rose by 17 percent last month, bringing the total increase since March to 35 percent.
According to the NTRA report, the usage of video applications such as TikTok, YouTube, Telegram and Zoom witnessed growth by 24, 115, 1,100 and 3,456 percent, respectively.
The usage of Shahid, an Arabic video-on-demand service in the Middle East, increased by 157 percent.
The usage of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapshot has increased by 44, 12, 27 and 67 percent, respectively.
The rate of online game applications increased by 75 percent.
The rate of browsing the websites of the ministries education, technical education and higher education and scientific research saw a surge of 395 percent since March and 19 percent during the last month.
The curfew was first introduced in March as part of a series of measures to curtail the spread of the virus and has been extended two times since.
The curfew was initially set at 7pm, but it was later pushed back to 8pm, and then to 9pm at the beginning of Ramadan.
The country decided to prolong the lockdown hours during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, starting at 5pm, as part of its bid to curb the spread of the contagion during the religious holiday, which is typically associated with family gatherings and packed public places.
Starting 30 May, and for two weeks, the curfew will run from 8 pm to 6 am, as the country aims to gradually reopen more businesses and some venues including sporting clubs and restaurants from mid-June.
Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) says it has sent a warning to the editor-in-chief of The Washington Post newspaper over “professional misconduct and disinformation” displayed in a recent report on Egypt.
The SIS, which is responsible for regulating the affairs of foreign press and media correspondents in Egypt, also said in a press release on Saturday that it has alerted the Cairo bureau chief of The New York Times over “numerous professional violations in some of his recent reports.”
Chairman of the SIS Diaa Rashwan met with Cairo Bureau Chief for The Washington Post Sudarsan Raghavan late on Saturday. Rashwan briefed Raghavan on “the professional misconduct, disinformation and misinformation contained in his recent reports on Egypt,” the SIS said in its statement.
Rashwan handed Raghavan a copy of the letter sent to the editor-in-chief of The Washington Post detailing “the journalistic violations by its Cairo-based reporter, who was issued a warning that in the event that such professional violations . . . appropriate measures permitted by both the law in Egypt and the rules of many countries worldwide shall be taken against him.”
In the letter to the editor-in-chief, the SIS specifically referred to a report published in The Washington Post on 10 May 2020 titled ‘As coronavirus spreads in Egypt, Sissi sees opportunity to tighten his grip.’
The letter detailed what the SIS described as “professional violations” in the report.
The SIS said that the report anonymously quoted “human rights activists”, and directed “very serious accusations to the Egyptian government, describing it as a ‘military-backed government’.”
The SIS argued that this rhetoric is “at odds with the reality of Egypt’s established civilian state with all its legitimate institutions, governed by a constitution approved by the people in a referendum.”
The SIS also said in the letter that contrary to what was mentioned in the report, the amendments to the emergency law were due to “the country s need to take extraordinary measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus,” and not to “grant the country s security institutions additional powers.”
The letter stressed that the amendments – which expand powers to “ban or limit public and private gatherings, to shut down schools, and to restrict people from owning, transporting, selling, buying or exporting any goods or services, as well as control their prices” – are essential for any country in order to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The SIS denied the correspondent’s claim that “the government did not respond to a request for comment,” saying that it had not received any communication from the correspondent in this regard.
It also stressed that unlike what was mentioned in the report, the banning of prison visits was not to “silence political prisoners”, but rather to “protect the prisoners themselves from the pandemic.”
The SIS said that based on such “professional misconduct,” it warned Raghavan of the need to “adhere to the proper professional standards when practicing his journalistic work in Egypt.”
The SIS added in its statement that its chairman Rashwan also met with Cairo bureau chief for The New York Times Declan Walsh, and alerted him on “numerous professional violations in some of his recent reports.”
The SIS underscored that it had previously issued a warning to the US newspaper’s bureau chief last month.
Bellow is the full text of the SIS letter:
Dear Mr. Martin Baron
Editor-in-Chief, The Washington Post
The State Information Service (SIS) conveys its highest regards to you and your esteemed newspaper and wishes to notify you of the following:
Based on our appreciation of the Washington Post, and its known adherence to professional rules in journalism, we wish to inform you that the newspaper’s Cairo Bureau Chief Mr. Sudarsan Raghavan has often encroached on the rules of the press profession, which are recognized throughout the world and are endorsed by your esteemed newspaper.
The latest example of such encroachment is the report by Mr. Raghavan titled “As coronavirus spreads in Egypt, Sissi sees opportunity to tighten his grip”, which was published in The Washington Post on 10/5/2020 and contained numerous professional violations as follows:
- The report attributed to what it calls “human rights activists”, an anonymous source, very serious accusations to the Egyptian government, describing it as a “military-backed government”. Such words are mere rhetoric and are at odds with the reality of Egypt’s established civil State with all its legitimate institutions, governed by a constitution approved by the people in a referendum. Officials of State institutions (the Presidency and Parliament) came into power through free elections monitored by hundreds of reporters from around the world, including the correspondent of your esteemed newspaper.
- At the same time, your correspondent in the aforementioned report accused officials in Egypt of exploiting amendments to the emergency law to grant the country s security institutions additional powers. It is a false accusation as the amendments to the emergency law were necessitated by the country s need to take extraordinary measures to counter the spread of the "Coronavirus". These are appropriate measures, considerably mitigated than those that all the nations of the world, including the United States itself, have had to take.
- The correspondent based his report on a highly politicized statement by Human Rights Watch, which was rejected by Egypt. Besides, what your reporter has said about giving the State s official authorities the powers to “ban or limit public and private gatherings, to shut down schools, and to restrict people from owning, transporting, selling, buying or exporting any goods or services, as well as control their prices” are necessary measures taken by all the countries of the world in the face of the pandemic.
- Your correspondent, who resorted to mere platitude by what he labeled “activists” and a tendentious statement by HRW, lives in Cairo and could have followed the rules of journalistic work by resorting to the relevant sources and taking their views into account when publishing the report, as well as following up on the reality in the Egyptian street, where citizens roam in much greater freedom than other countries despite the spread of the pandemic; a matter reflecting that the intervention of all official authorities in the lives of individuals is at a lower level than any measures in other countries.
- The correspondent claimed that “the government did not respond to a request for comment”. Unfortunately, the State Information Service has not received any communication from the correspondent in this regard. In fact, the correspondent consistently has not contacted SIS to communicate with stakeholders in Egypt for most of his reports abundant in allegations and fallacies.
- Your correspondent made false claims that the Egyptian people s revolution in 2013 to get rid of religious fascism was a “military coup”, While ignoring the armed terrorism that our country has been subjected to so far by these terrorist groups invoking the Islamic religion, and claiming that terrorists who are being fairly tried in public for their crimes are political opponents.
- Your correspondent ignored all the rules of the journalism profession when he turned to a researcher at the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, and an unknown researcher said to be from Amnesty International. It would have been prudent for him to witness firsthand the situation on the ground, rather than propagating their baseless claims and ignoring the views of the concerned parties on these allegations, thus violating press rules requiring that the views of all parties be taken on an equal footing.
- In his report, your correspondent criticizes the temporary suspension of prison visits and sees it as a way to “silence political prisoners”, while it is a measure to protect the prisoners themselves from the pandemic. Prison visits have been replaced by other means of communication between prisoners and their relatives. Present-day realities confirm that this measure has so far helped to protect the lives of prisoners.
- This biased, unprofessional and subjective report is a continuation of the excesses of your correspondent in Cairo, based in its entirety on raising the most serious accusations against the State institutions in Egypt, resorting to the same type of sources, either anonymous sources labelled as "activists", or researchers, harboring well-known negative stances against Egypt, who do not reside in it and even have not entered it for years.
- The presence of the reporter in Cairo and granting him accreditation as a foreign correspondent means, under journalistic customs worldwide, that the correspondent has to apprise himself of the reality and to communicate with all parties, not to poll the opinions of everyone who has antagonism with the Egyptian State around the world.
In light of all the above, we wish to inform you that the State Information Service has met with Mr. Sudarsan Raghavan and warned him of the need to adhere to the proper professional standards when practicing his journalistic work in Egypt, in accordance with his accreditation as a foreign correspondent. Otherwise, we will have to take measures, permitted by law in Egypt and the guidelines regulating the work of accredited foreign correspondents, and which are applied not only in Egypt, but also globally.
In conclusion, we wish to express to you our sincere appreciation to the esteemed "The Washington Post" newspaper, which undoubtedly would not tolerate such professional violations by its Cairo bureau chief, which are inconsistent with the newspaper’s status and credibility.
Chairman, State Information Service
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Egypt is predicted to reach 20,000 next week, Egypt’s higher education minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said on Thursday.
The figure, around 40% up from the current confirmed 14,229 cases, is expected to be recorded on 27-28 May, the minister said in a televised conference attended by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
From 15 April to 20 May, the average rate of the daily increase in new infections in Egypt stood at 5 -5.6%, down from 8-10% in the first two weeks of April, the minister said.
He sought to reassure the public that authorities are still able to contain the virus.
“The daily growth rate [in cases] remain within safe ranges,” the minister said, adding that it would be worrying if the rate of the daily rise in cases reaches 15-20%.
Each person infected with coronavirus in Egypt is passing the disease on to an estimated 1.4 people, as opposed to three people on average at current transmission rates in some countries, Abdel Ghaffar said.
When the number is below 1 percent, then the pandemic can be considered receding, he added.
Egypt will construct the largest fibre optic cable plant in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with investments worth over EGP 1 billion ($63.2 million), the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) said.
The 50,000 square metre plant in the Red Sea s Gulf of Suez city of Ain Sokhna is planned to start operation in the third quarter of 2021, SCZone Chairman Yehia Zaki said in a statement on Wednesday.
The project is part of an initial deal signed between the government-owned Arab Organisation for Industrialisation (AOI) and IT service provider Benya Capital.
"The annual production capacity of the project is four million km of cables, while investments in the project amount to more than EGP 1 billion," Zaki said.
The deal is part of the government s efforts to boost the industrial sector, promote local technology and reduce imports, AOI Chairman Abdel-Moneim Al-Tarras said, adding that the project will make available jobs for young engineers and technicians.
The government said manufacturing fibre optic cables will meet the needs of telecoms, power, gas and oil firms, as well as new cities the country is building.
Benya Capital has chosen US firm Corning Inc, a leading provider of optical fibres, cables, and communication solutions, as a strategic supplier of the factory.
The Egyptian government hopes the economic zone around the Suez Canal will develop an international industrial and logistics hub that will attract much-needed foreign investment.
Egypt s Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty will be tested for the coronavirus after he had met with a provincal governor who was later diagnosed with the flu-like disease, ministry spokesman Mohamed El-Sebaie said in TV comments late on Monday.
Daqahliya governor Aymen Mokhtar announced his infection on Monday evening after he had met with the minister earlier on the day to discuss projects in the governorate.
The minister said in a statement late on Monday that he was in good condition, adding that preventative measures had been taken during the meeting including wearing face masks and gloves and following physical distancing rules.
All people who had come in contact with the infected governor will be examined and the ministry s office, where the meeting was held, will be sanitised, according to the ministry.
The governor said he was tested for the virus after showing some symptoms two days after a director at the governorate office tested positive for COVID-19.
The governor had also met with local development minister Mahmoud Sharawy last week, he said as he spoke to satellite TV channel MBC, noting that all people who had come into contact with him would be traced and tested.
He will be transferred to a quarantine hospital in the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya.
The local development minister also said all prevention measures were followed during the 10 May meeting, adding that his ministry s office had been sanitised several times since the meeting.
All the ministry s workers and visitors have their temperature measured before entering the ministry building, he added.
Egypt has so far registered 12,764 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 645 fatalities.
An EgyptAir flight from Washington bringing back home 340 Egyptian nationals landed in Marsa Alam on Monday, state run MENA news agency reported.
According to the agency, Marsa Alam airport’s quarantine and preventive health team conducted medical checkups and swabs to ensure that the passengers are coronavirus free.
The passengers were then transferred to designated hotels in the Red Sea resort city under full medical supervision, where they will stay in a 14-day quarantine.
The government requires returnees to sign a written acknowledgement that they agree to be quarantined before boarding the flights.
Egypt began repatriating its nationals in March after many countries, including Egypt itself, started to shut their airspace to commercial flights.
The country is keeping its airspace open to inbound charter flights and special flights to transport outbound passengers, and to cargo and domestic flights.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said last week that authorities are hoping to repatriate all nationals stuck abroad before the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, which is set to begin on 23 May.
Egypt has repatriated around 12,000 stranded Egyptians from different countries since late April, an aviation ministry source told Al-Ahram last week.
Seventy flights arranged by EgyptAir and Air Cairo airlines brought Egyptian nationals back to their country amid the coronavirus pandemic, the source said, adding that flights will not stop “until the last Egyptian stranded abroad is repatriated.”
Egypt will begin operating "field tents" for suspected coronavirus patients at a Cairo fever hospital on Monday to prevent overcrowding inside the facility, the health ministry announced late on Saturday.
According to a statement, Health Minister Hala Zayed toured Abbasiya s Fever Hospital tents, which are prepared to be used as waiting and screening areas for suspected coronavirus patients.
She assured the availability of x-ray and testing equipment at tents to ensure swift medical services.
She inspected the development of a designated building at Abbasiya Chest Hospital, which will serve as a quarantine centre for coronavirus patients with a capacity of 166 beds starting next week.
Zayed also toured the hospital s laboratory after the ministry supplied a PCR device, with testing set to begin next week.
The move comes as the country works to expand the capacity of its health system to cope with a spike in coronavirus cases, as authorities seek to ease lockdown measures by the end of Ramadan, which falls next week.
Egypt reported 491 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, bringing the total number of detected cases up to 11,719.
It also reported 20 new coronavirus deaths on Saturday, bringing the total number of fatalities up to 612 nationwide
Egypt surpassed 11,000 coronavirus cases on Friday 15 May, almost three months after the first case was confirmed on 14 February. It took the respiratory virus seven weeks to reach 1,000 infections in Egypt, and five days to move from 10,000 to 11,000 cases.
Last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi issued a decree extending a nationwide state of emergency for three months starting Tuesday.
The ratification came after the parliament passed a number of amendments to a law regulating the state of emergency that give greater powers to the presidency and the military prosecution as authorities fight the coronavirus outbreak.
The amendments allow authorities to put in place a series of measures to contain the spread of the virus, some of which have already been enforced, including suspending schools and banning public and private gatherings.
The state will also be allowed to instruct private hospitals and their staff to help with public healthcare for a limited period in case of emergency, and to turn schools, youth centres and other state-owned facilities into field hospitals.
Egypt’s health ministry published Wednesday a 3-stage plan for coronavirus management that contains required procedures “in preparation for the gradual return of normal life in the country.”
The plan aims at “balancing between returning back to normal life while maintaining precautionary measures” to reach communal recovery from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The first stage of the plan, according to the ministry, should be applied immediately and entails “strict measures” in order to avoid relapses. The stage ends when there is a decrease in the total number of new cases nationwide for two consecutive weeks.
In spite of lockdown measures imposed in March to contain the spread of the virus, Egypt’s infection tally has continued to surge, surpassing Tuesday the 10,000 mark, three months after the detection of the first Covid-19 case in the country on 14 February.
Though it took the country around seven weeks to reach the 1,000 infections milestone, it only took three days for Egypt to move from 9,000 to the 10,000 infections mark.
According to the ministry s plan, the second stage is that of “medium measures” that should last for 28 days after the end of the first stage.
The third stage includes lenient but continuous measures that should be ongoing until further instructions are issued, or until the World Health Organisation (WHO) declares that the global risk assessment has reduced to a low level.
In the plan, the health ministry urges citizens that until further notice they should always wear face masks when they leave home.
The plan indicates that five sectors must remain suspended during the three plases: recreational facilities (cinemas, theatres, coffee shops, etc), restaurants, schools and universities, gyms and sports facilities, in addition to any kind of social gatherings like weddings and funerals.
The ministry reaffirmed social distancing rules and urged citizens and institutions to abide by them.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on Thursday called on the ministers of higher education, health and the presidential health advisor to finalise a version of the plan to be announced soon by the cabinet.
During a meeting with a number of ministers to follow up on the latest efforts to tackle the coronavirus crisis, Madbouly stressed that the plan should include penalties for those who violate it, Al-Ahram reported.
Sudan has said it rejects any partial agreement over the beginning of the filling of the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in July, a letter by the country’s prime minister read, joining Egypt in repudiating efforts by Ethiopia to progress its mega dam.
According to a statement on Tuesday, Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok sent a letter to his Ethiopian counterpart Abiy Ahmed disapproving of an Addis Ababa proposal on an agreement over the dam’s first filling.
“Any signing of a partial agreement for the first filling could not be approved due to technical and legal aspects that should be included in the agreement,” Hamdok said.
The agreement must incorporate a mechanism of coordination, an exchange of information and the safety of the dam and its environmental and social impacts, he said.
The Sudanese prime minister stressed that the path to reach a comprehensive agreement is an immediate resumption of negotiations which he said saw significant progress in the last four months.
Sudan believes that the current circumstances do not allow for talks through normal diplomatic channels, he said, in reference to the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that teleconferences are a means to complete negotiations and agree on outstanding issues.
Lead Sudanese negotiator Saleh Hamad said that most of the issues being negotiated are inextricably linked, not only to the first filling, but to all phases of filling and operations on the long run and therefore cannot be divided.
Hamad said Sudan has been pushing with efforts for a return of negotiations under Washington-sponsored talks, which have resolved 90 percent of disagreements.
He said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed in March his full support for efforts by the Sudanese prime minister on the return of talks over the dam.
Hamdok also called on the presidents of Egypt and Ethiopia to resume negotiations predicting a return to the negotiation table for a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operations of the dam before the next flood season.
Tuesday’s statement comes a day after Ethiopia announced it is to start filling its mega-dam in July, despite opposition from Egypt and Sudan as they stand by a 2015 declaration that stipulates an agreement on the guidelines governing the filling and annual operation of the dam should be reached.
Egypt has been abiding by the rules of international law since the onset of negotiations over the GERD despite Ethiopia s intransigence and sudden withdrawal from the last round of talks in Washington earlier this year to sign the final agreement over the rules of filling and operating the GERD.
Washington, which has been brokering talks since last year, failed to secure signatures from the three countries at end February, stressing that the filling of the 6,000-megawatt dam "should not take place without an agreement."
Only Egypt initialled the agreement, saying it was "fair and balanced" and "achieves the interest of the three countries."
Ethiopia attempted to revive last month the faltered talks through letters sent by Ahmed to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Hamdok on the Ethiopian proposal that would cover the first stage of the filling, letter to the UN Security Council from Cairo showed.
Egypt have turned to the UN body to voice their concerns and rejection of the Ethiopian proposal.
Cairo, in a 17-page letter, blamed Ethiopia for trying to establish a deal without taking the interests of downstream countries into consideration.
Some 85 percent of the Nile waters that reach Egypt flow from the Ethiopian highlands, mainly from the Blue Nile.
Ethiopia hopes the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile, which has been under construction since 2011, will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.
Egypt recieves an annual release of 55.5 billion cubic metres from its High Aswan Dam, while it needs over 80 billion cubic metres. It bridges the gap by water recycling and reuse.
Cairo fears the dam will diminish its water supply from the Nile, on which it relies for the vast majority of its fresh water.
The populous country currently has a water share of around 570 cubic metres per person annually, well below the water scarcity level of 1,000 cubic metres per person per year. The figure is expected to drop further to 500 cubic metres by 2025.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi praised on Tuesday the role played by the country’s nursing staff in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, as the virus continues to infect medical staff in the populous country.
“Speaking for myself and the Egyptian people, I express appreciation and respect to the nursing stuff who have made sacrifices for a noble humanitarian mission, which they are carrying out honorably,” El-Sisi said in a Facebook post to mark International Nurses Day, which falls on 12 May.
The president said that the efforts by nurses in Egypt in this “difficult period proves their competence and their devotion to the nation and its people.”
The president’s statements came hours after Egypt’s Nursing Syndicate announced that a sixth nurse has died from coronavirus.
Egypt fears the virus will strain its medical capabilities, as a rise in infections among medical staff has been reported over the past few weeks.
The World Health Organisation said last April that infections among medical staff represent around 13 percent of the total infections in Egypt.
BLOM Bank Egypt said it is temporarily suspending operations at its New Cairo branch over a suspected coronavirus case among its staff, a statement by the bank said on Sunday.
The bank said it has disinfected the branch over the weekend immediately after the suspected case was reported last Friday.
It has also coordinated to conduct coronavirus tests for all employees at the branch, and is redirecting clients to the nearest branch in the area.
The statement added the bank will continue to implement preventative measures and sterilise all of the bank’s departments and branches amid the pandemic crisis.
Around 300 Egyptians arrived in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Marsa Alam from Washington on Sunday, as part of the country s plan to bring back home nationals stranded abroad due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The EgyptAir flight arrived in the Marsa Alam International Airport at around 8 am.
Several sterilised tour buses transported the returnees from the airport to designated hotels in the coastal city where they will be put into 14-day quarantine.
Egypt s flagship carrier EgyptAir will operate two planes on Sunday to repatriate 420 Egyptians stranded in the UK and Kuwait, according to local media reports.
Marsa Alam will receive the first flight from London with 120 passengers onboard while Cairo international airport will receive the other with 300 passengers onboard from Kuwait.
Egypt is working to repatriate thousands of Egyptians without valid residencies in Kuwait, which Immigration Minister Nabila Makram estimated at 5,300.
Egypt has closed all its airports to international flights since mid-March as part of drastic measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The country has since operated exceptional flights to bring Egyptians stranded abroad back home and allow foreign tourists to return to their country.
Egypt has since kept its airspace open to inbound charter and to cargo and domestic flights.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has vowed to repatriate an estimated 3,500 Egyptians stranded overseas “at the earliest opportunity.”
"I assure all Egyptians [stranded abroad] who are listening to me, even if our circumstances are difficult, we will not leave you," he said in televised remarks last month.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said last week that authorities are hoping to repatriate all nationals stuck abroad before the religious Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, which is set to begin on 23 May.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry discussed latest regional developments, including the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and updates on the coronavirus pandemic, with his Estonian counterpart Urmas Reinsalu on Wednesday, the Egyptian foreign ministry said.
According to ministry statements, Shoukry discussed in the call received from Reinsalu efforts to curb the Covid-19 outbreak, especially international cooperation and coordination to exchange expertise. In the phone call, the Egyptian foreign minister discussed Egyptian views on the situation in the Middle East.
For his part, Reinsalu expressed his aspiration for cooperation with Egypt, especially as Estonia is currently a member of the UN Security Council and will head the council in May, asserting that his country is ready to discuss issues of common interest between the two countries, the foreign ministry said in its statement.
Shoukry and Reinaslu also discussed latest developments concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The Egyptian foreign minister mentioned a letter sent by Egypt to the president of the Security Council 1 May, about GERD after the failure of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to reach to an agreement on its filing and operation in the latest round of talks in the United States earlier this year.
The letter details the stages the GERD issue has passed since its beginning and the actions and positions taken by Egypt in accordance with international law.
In the letter, it is revealed that on 10 April 2020, the Ethiopian prime minister sent a letter to the president of Egypt and the prime minister of Sudan proposing they agree to an Ethiopian plan for the execution of the first stage of the filling of GERD. That plan was not shared with Egypt or Sudan. On 15 April 2020, Egypt’s president sent a message to the Ethiopian premier stating Egypt’s unwavering commitment to concluding beneficial agreement on GERD, reaffirming that the 2015 Declaration of Principles obliges the three countries to work towards a comprehensive agreement to regulate both the filing and operation of the dam.
The letter called on the international community to ask Ethiopia to respect its international legal obligations to the 2015 Declaration of Principles and to reconsider its position and to accept the agreement on the filing and operation of the dam initiated by Egypt in February 2020.
Tensions have been building between Egypt and Ethiopia over technical details regarding the operation and filling of the dam, which is under construction near Ethiopia s border with Sudan. Ethiopia hopes that the massive $4.8 billion project on the Blue Nile will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter.
Egypt, which is downstream from the dam, fears that the project will diminish its share of Nile water, on which it is almost entirely reliant for fresh water.
Last November, the US stepped in to host negotiations after Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia announced that talks on the operation and filling of the dam had reached a dead-end. The three sides were expected to sign a final deal in late February, when the last meeting was scheduled to be held in Washington, but Ethiopia skipped the meeting, citing domestic reasons.
Egypt s prosecutor-general said on Tuesday that young Egyptian filmmaker Shady Habash died in prison due to alcohol poisoning after he drank a sanitising solution he thought was water.
Habash, 24, died on Friday in Cairo’s Tora prison complex, after over two years in pre-trial detention over charges including “spreading false news” and “joining a banned organisation.” He was arrested in March 2018 after directing a music video satirical of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
Habash informed the prison physician “he accidentally drank alcohol in the afternoon on the day before his death, claiming… he thought it was water as he complained of stomach cramps,” the persecutor-general’s office said in a statement.
“The physician gave him antiseptic and antispasmodic drugs and sent him back to his cell because his condition was stable,” the statement added.
Prison doctors examined Habash several times throughout the day and gave him the necessary drugs. When his health deteriorated at night, a physician decided to transfer him to a hospital outside the prison, the statement said.
As an ambulance was being prepared, Habash did not respond to the doctor’s attempts to revive him and died before he was sent to hospital.
The prosecutors questioned three inmates. One of them said the deceased told him he had drunk “by mistake” alcohol used by a detainee as a protective measure against the coronavirus, and that his cell mates then found two 100-millilitre bottles of hand sanitiser of the same type used by the deceased in a trash bin.
Two other cell-mates were questioned, with one giving a similar account and the other claiming Habash told him he mixed liquid sanitiser with a soft drink to get the same effect of hard drinks.
The prosecutor’s statement said there were no apparent injuries to the body of the deceased.
The prosecutor-general ordered an autopsy to identify the “direct cause” of death and whether there were any injuries, drugs or alcoholic substances in his body, and to determine if medical procedures taken with him in detention were correct.
Habash’s family released a statement on social media on Tuesday rejecting any political use of the young man’s death and demanding an explanation for his death.