Egypt COVID-19 cases could be '10 times higher' than reported figures

The Egyptian Health Ministry figures say that, as of Friday, the number of confirmed cases was 22,082 with 879 deaths. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Egypt COVID-19 cases could be '10 times higher' than reported figures

  • Recorded infections only reflect cases reported, says doctor

CAIRO: An Egyptian doctor has caused controversy over the number of coronavirus cases in the country by saying the real numbers may be up to 10 times higher than the reported figures.

Dr. Adel Khattab, a member of the Higher Committee for Viruses affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education, made these remarks in an interview with Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar.

Khattab said COVID-19 cases in Egypt could hit 40,000 in just a few days. The Egyptian Health Ministry figures say that, as of Friday, the number of confirmed cases was 22,082 with 879 deaths.

Khattab said the number of infections recorded daily only reflected the cases reported to authorities. He said there were many patients with mild symptoms who went untested for the virus and, therefore, were unregistered.

He said the actual number of cases was expected to reach 10 times the number of reported cases, mainly due to socializing during the Eid Al-Fitr holidays.

The increase in cases would be prevalent among those who returned to the provinces for the holiday, then left for work and the disease would mostly be spread through people who have contracted the virus without showing symptoms, also known as silent carriers or asymptomatic.

Khattab explained that the danger lay with people who were asymptomatic.

Abdel-Majid Ibrahim, a doctor at a quarantine hospital in Egypt, said that Khattab was drawing on foreign research. A German-conducted study showed that one out of every five infected people failed to show any symptoms and therefore became a silent carrier of the virus, which could infect four out of five individuals, he explained.

“The daily numbers shared by the Ministry of Health may be based on speculation,” he told Arab News. “There are no numbers or figures other than those announced by the ministry — 1,200 daily cases reported on Friday, May 29, making the total cases reported in the country over 22,000.”

The government has begun paving the way for “coexisting with coronavirus” including imposing a fine of EGP4,000 ($235) on anyone out in public or a private crowded place not wearing a facemask. People will not be permitted to enter any facility, government-owned or otherwise, without wearing masks. The same applies to public and private transport. Malls and shops will be allowed to reopen all week, starting from Saturday.

Several Egyptian officials have said the country must end its lockdown soon and people must resume work to prevent the economy from collapsing.

Egyptian Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa announced that a plan to reopen places of worship was ready. Mosques and churches in Egypt have been closed and religious rituals have been suspended since March.

Gomaa said the plan would be presented to a coronavirus crisis management committee headed by the prime minister next week.

The Egyptian president’s advisor on health and prevention, Dr. Mohamed Awad Taj El-Din, predicted that coronavirus infections in the country would reach their peak in two weeks. 

He called for all of the country’s institutions to work together “to survive the crisis safely.”

Lebanese patriarch warns of crisis without a government after Adib steps down

Updated 27 September 2020

Lebanese patriarch warns of crisis without a government after Adib steps down

  • Al-Rai said Adib’s resignation had ‘disappointed citizens, especially the youth’
  • Frustration at Adib’s failure to form government was voiced by Lebanon’s religious communities

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top Christian cleric said on Sunday the nation faced “multiple dangers” that would be hard to weather without a government, speaking a day after the prime minister-designate quit following his failed bid to form a cabinet.
Mustapha Adib stepped down on Saturday after hitting a roadblock over how to make appointments in the sectarian system, striking a blow to a French initiative that aimed to haul the nation out of its deepest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who had pressed Lebanon’s fractious politicians to reach a consensus so that Adib was named on Aug. 31, is to due to speak about the crisis in a news conference in Paris later on Sunday.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, Lebanon’s biggest Christian community, said Adib’s resignation had “disappointed citizens, especially the youth, who were betting on the start of change in the political class.”
Many top politicians, both Christian and Muslim, have held sway for years or even decades. Some are former warlords.
Rai said Lebanon now had to navigate “multiple dangers” without a government at the helm.
Rai’s comments were echoed on the streets of Beirut, where mass protests erupted in 2019 as years of mismanagement, corruption and mounting debts finally led to economic collapse, paralysing banks and sending the currency into freefall.
“There needs to be fundamental change. We need new people. We need new blood,” said 24-year-old Hassan Amer, serving coffee from a roadside cafe in the capital, which was hammered by a huge port blast on Aug. 4 that killed almost 200 people.
In nearby streets, walls were still plastered with graffiti from the protests, including the popular call for sweeping out the old guard: “All of them means all of them.”
Frustration at the failure of Adib, a Sunni Muslim, to form a government was voiced by many across Lebanon’s religious communities. Prime ministers under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system must be Sunnis.
A senior Shiite Muslim cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan, said on Saturday Adib’s resignation as the economy collapsed could “be described as a disaster,” calling for national unity to deliver reforms, the state news agency reported.
The cabinet formation effort stumbled after Lebanon’s two main Shiite groups, Amal and the heavily armed Iran-backed Hezbollah, demanded they name several ministers, including finance, a key role as the nation draws up a rescue plan.
Saad Al-Hariri, a former prime minister and leading Sunni politician, said in a statement he would not be involved in naming any new premier and said the French plan was “the last and only opportunity to halt Lebanon’s collapse.”
A French roadmap laid out a reform program for a new government to help trigger billions of dollars of international aid.