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Thursday, 7 May 2020

Covid-19 isolation hospitals at full capacity, prompting search for other alternatives

Egypt’s isolation hospitals are maxed out: Hospitals used to isolate covid-19 patients reached full capacity this week, Assistant Health Minister Ahmed El Sobky said, according to Al Masry Al Youm. This has prompted the ministry to search for other alternatives, such as using hotels to add capacity in a similar fashion to what was done in hotels in Marsa Alam to quarantine people returning from abroad, El Sobky said. The solution has also been employed in European and Asian countries to isolate people who test positive (or were believed to have been exposed), but who were asymptomatic or suffering only mild symptoms.

The solution: Isolate and treat covid-19 patients in the same hospitals. Plans being drawn up by the ministry that would phase out designated isolation centers and instead isolate and treat covid-19 patients in hospitals that remain open to non-infected patients, Al Shorouk reported yesterday, quoting unnamed ministry sources. Thirty-four respiratory disease and fever hospitals will be equipped to handle the treatment process in the coming month and the 17 isolation hospitals will only take in new patients as beds are freed, the sources said.

The government has told the private sector to be ready to handle cases, but hasn’t yet authorized them to handle covid patients. We reported last month that the Health Ministry had “issued an advisory to all private hospitals to create isolation wings that could house covid-19 patients.” Similarly, private-sector lab groups are not officially authorized to test for covid-19. We reported on Tuesday that members of the House of Representatives are lobbying the government to allow the private sector to start testing as part of a bid to increase Egypt’s total testing capacity.

In related news: The Supreme Council of Universities has asked the House Budgeting Committee for an additional EGP 2.5 bn in state funds in FY2020-2021 as the government enlists university hospitals and student accommodation facilities to treat and isolate patients, council head Hossam Abdel Ghaffar said, according to Al Mal. Around EGP 1.5 bn would be used to equip university facilities with the means for treating covid-19 patients, and a further EGP 1 bn would go towards the purchase of “non-financial assets.”

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