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.”


Displaced Yazidis head back to Sinjar as lockdown bites

Gole Zeblo Ismaeel, daughter in-law of Nayef al-Hamo, a Yazidi displaced man, hugs her neigbour before heading back to Sinjar following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and economic crisis, near Dohuk, Iraq July 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 July 2020

Displaced Yazidis head back to Sinjar as lockdown bites

  • Young men from my community who used to earn up to $17 a day working at restaurants and factories can no longer find work because of the lockdown’s impact on the economy

SHARYA: Hundreds of Yazidi families driven from their hometown of Sinjar in northern Iraq years ago are now returning as the impact of coronavirus lockdown measures makes their lives in exile even harder.
Many have lost their jobs and aid from donors in Sharya, where they have been living since they fled Sinjar in 2014.
Mahma Khalil, the mayor of Sinjar but now in exile in Dohuk in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, said more than 1,200 displaced families have returned from their temporary homes to Sinjar since June. Most had relatives their who serve in the military or police, he said.
Overrun by Daesh in 2014 and liberated by an array of forces the following year, little has been rebuilt in Sinjar.
Water is scarce and power intermittent in the city, whose former occupiers killed thousands of Yazidis and forced many women in sexual slavery.
Despite the devastation that makes the city still largely unfit for habitation, members of this ancient minority feel they have no other choice.
“The situation has become really bad,” Yazidi community leader Jameel Elias Hassan Al-Hamo said outside his makeshift home in Sharya, just south of Dohuk.
Young men from his community who used to earn up to $17 a day working at restaurants and factories can no longer find work because of the lockdown’s impact on the economy, Al-Hamo said.
As he spoke, men carried pieces of furniture, blankets and bags of food out of his home and piled them onto the back of a pickup truck.
The coronavirus outbreak has worsened Iraq’s economic crisis, pushing oil prices down in a country that depends on crude export for more than 90 percent of its revenue. Restrictions on travel and curfews have driven many out of work.
Al-Hamo’s daughter-in-law Gole Zeblo Ismaeel said that the monthly aid packages they used to depend on became scarcer as the crisis impacted the work of humanitarian organizations.
Another reason for their return was the restriction on internal travel between semi-autonomous Kurdistan and neighboring Iraqi regions, imposed since March to curb the spread of the virus.
Al-Hamo said that most Yazidi families in Sharya have a son enrolled in armed forces stationed in Sinjar, who have been unable to visit for weeks.
“Some haven’t seen their families for over three months now,” he said.
Although their hometown is destroyed, Al-Hamo said they have been promised support by local aid organizations upon their return and he believed soon he will be reunited with the rest of his family soon.
“I registered over 400 names and phone numbers of relatives, members of the tribe and of the community. They said that once we, the sheikhs and tribal leaders, go back, they will follow us,” he added.
Khalil said he has been pleading for funds from the central government to step up reconstruction efforts in Sinjar but he believed it would not happen any time soon.