Egypt approves Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

China has given conditional approval to a coronavirus vaccine developed by state-owned Sinopharm. (File/AP)
China has given conditional approval to a coronavirus vaccine developed by state-owned Sinopharm. (File/AP)
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Updated 03 January 2021

Egypt approves Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine

Egypt approves Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine
  • Vaccine to be distributed to medical staff in the second week of January
  • A website had been set up registering citizens to receive the first dose of the vaccine

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Health Hala Zayed has announced legislative approval for the emergency use of the Chinese Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine.

In a statement to the Egyptian media, Zayed said: “We have obtained the approval of the Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) for an emergency license to use the Sinopharm vaccine.”

She indicated that the vaccine would start to be distributed to medical staff in the second week of January.

Zayed said that Egypt would obtain the British AstraZeneca vaccine through the Vaxira company of the Egyptian Ministry of Health, and that Britain has granted approval to supply Egypt with it.

She confirmed that the contracted manufacturing stages for the AstraZeneca vaccine had begun and that it would be received by the end of this month.

Zayed said that the ministry had provided more than 39 million syringes, in addition to the quantities available in the governorates, noting that the ministry has contracted with national companies to supply more syringes.

A website had been set up registering citizens to receive the first dose of the vaccine, with a video to explain how it works, as well as an explanation of the informed consent that the recipient will sign, she said.

The minister said that recipients of the first dose of the vaccine would receive a medical report to follow up on their condition until they received the second dose 21 days later. Citizens would be vaccinated in the second or third week of January, as soon as the second shipment of the Chinese vaccine arrived.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has directed the opening of centers for vaccination in all governorates.

Egyptian presidential spokesperson, Bassam Radi, said that El-Sisi had directed the “Long Live Egypt” fund to support the provision of the anti-coronaviris vaccine to high-priority groups, especially medical staff, followed by those with critical and chronic cases, infected cases and the elderly.

In previous press statements, Zayed indicated that the Chinese vaccine was chosen by a committee that included representatives from the medical services of the armed forces, the Ministry of Higher Education, the Egyptian Drug Authority and WHO.


Crypto-miners take down Iran electric grids, prompting crackdown

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 19 January 2021

Crypto-miners take down Iran electric grids, prompting crackdown

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • Multiple cities have experienced blackouts and a halt to industrial work in recent weeks
  • Tehran offering $4,750 reward for informants who expose illegal cryptocurrency mining operations

LONDON: Iran has ordered a crackdown on cryptocurrency miners after blackouts in major cities were attributed to the excess toll the activity takes on the energy grid.

Parts of Tehran, as well as Mashhad and Tabriz, have experienced repeated blackouts in recent weeks, temporarily halting production lines and plunging the cities into darkness.

State electricity company Tavanir said it had temporarily halted all known crypto-mining operations, including a Chinese-Iranian mine in Rafsanjan that is reported to have been consuming 175 megawatt hours — enough electricity to power an average Western home for 17 years.

Cryptocurrency mining is a process in which specialized computers complete progressively more difficult calculations to verify transactions and thereby produce cryptocurrencies, the most popular of which is Bitcoin.

The process is extremely energy intensive, meaning that cryptocurrency mining is most profitable in locations with cheap energy.

Because of significant state subsidies and excess fuel reserves held by Iran due to sanctions, oil-fueled electricity is very cheap in the country — less than 1 cent per kilowatt hour.

This has massively fueled production of cryptocurrencies in Iran, to the extent that in 2020, the country was responsible for 8 percent of all the world’s Bitcoin production.

The effect of the crypto-mining on Iran’s grids has become such a problem that the government is now offering a $4,750 reward for tips on illegal crypto-mining locations.

At $35,000 each, the price of Bitcoin has reached record levels in recent weeks, making mining of the currency particularly attractive in a place with few economic opportunities such as Iran.

The appeal of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is also relevant for states and groups that operate on the fringes of the global economy, such as Iran, Venezuela and North Korea, as well as terrorist groups.

Bitcoins can be traded outside the traditional banking system, allowing Iran to circumvent economic sanctions on its financial sectors, and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Daesh to trade on the black market anonymously.

In 2019, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country would launch its own cryptocurrency to circumvent US sanctions, but little else is known about the project.

Despite the difficulty in tracing cryptocurrency transactions, in 2018 the US sanctioned two Iranians who had been converting cryptocurrency into Iranian rials on behalf of hackers who had targeted American corporations, hospitals, universities and government agencies.