CAIRO: The Egyptian Ministry of Health has stepped up preventive measures in hospitals throughout the country to combat the threat of any outbreak of the deadly Chinese coronavirus which has spread to more than 24 countries.
The ministry’s preventive medicine sector has called on hospitals to investigate all patients admitted into emergency units with flu-like symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and fever.
The steps are part of Egypt’s precautionary measures to protect the country from the coronavirus which has so far killed more than 360 people, mostly in China where there are at least 17,000 confirmed cases.
Outside China, there have been at least 150 confirmed cases of the virus — which causes severe acute respiratory infection — and one death, in the Philippines.
Egyptian health officials added that the country’s free therapy and medical license sector was also intensifying measures to fight viruses, including the coronavirus, in private hospitals and clinics.
The moves came as 345 Egyptians from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak started, were flown back to Egypt on Monday.
The ministry said it was carefully monitoring the situation but confirmed there had been no reported cases of coronavirus in Egypt thanks to strict checks in place at airports and seaports, especially on travelers from China.
Ayman Emam, the ministry’s director general of quarantine, said that airports and seaports had been provided with health-monitoring cards which allowed access to information on passengers arriving from abroad which could be recorded on the ministry’s database. The cards also offered the possibility of monitoring people for 14 days, the incubation period of the virus.
Emam noted that the quarantine procedures were in constant operation to prevent any epidemic from spreading. Masks and gloves had also been provided for airport staff to prevent the transmission of infections.
He added that the ministry had specialized medical equipment to screen all visitors from Wuhan, and that hospitals in all of Egypt’s 14 governorates had been designated to treat people suffering from infectious diseases.
The Egyptian health ministry was coordinating with all airlines to protect passengers “anytime, anywhere,” and he pointed out that a series of seminars had been held to raise awareness on preventive measures for viruses and infectious diseases.
A total of 345 Egyptians living in Wuhan returned to Cairo on Monday. Medical crews were on board the plane to accompany the passengers and their families. The team wore protective suits and face masks and provided sanitizers and face masks to the Egyptian passengers before they boarded the plane. They will be held in quarantine for 14 days.
Marwan El-Fiqi, an Egyptian resident of Wuhan, thanked the Egyptian authorities for their quick response in bringing people back to Egypt.
El-Fiqi, a professor of communicable diseases at Benha University’s school of veterinary medicine, said that in China they had to buy masks as ordered by the Chinese authorities. They also sanitized their clothes, shoes and luggage. “We sanitized our belongings before boarding the plane. The process was repeated at the airport and the evacuation was timely.”
Egypt sent 10 tons of medical equipment to China as a gift to the Chinese people on board the plane that transferred the Egyptians living in Wuhan back to Cairo. Egyptian Minister of Health Hala Zayed said the aid included preventive equipment such as face masks and alcoholic sanitizers.