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Thursday, 24 December 2020

Seriously, don’t have a NYE party

The government is serious about barring NYE parties: Any hotel, sporting club, restaurant, cabaret, or other venue that hosts New Year’s Eve celebrations against the government’s instructions will face fines and could lose their licenses, Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa yesterday. Saad did not mention parties hosted on private property. Saad reiterated that fines up to EGP 4k for breaking other rules, including failing to wear masks and exceeding capacity limits, are now payable on the spot (watch, runtime: 20:23).

Just so we’re clear, what are the rules for masks again? Anyone taking public transport including the Metro, microbuses or trains, as well as taxis and Ubers must wear a mask. Riding in your personal vehicle? No mask required. Masks must also be worn inside any enclosed space, including banks and government buildings, but authorities aren’t requiring pedestrians to wear a mask while walking in the street.

The Health Ministry reported 911 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 788 the day before, and the highest figure since 16 July. The ministry also reported 42 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 7,203. This is the first time the daily death toll has been above the 40-person mark since 30 July. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 128,512 confirmed cases of covid-19.

We’re doubling in less than two weeks: It took 13 days for total daily cases to double, and 12 for the daily death tally to double.

Where are we seeing the largest number of cases? Cairo, Giza, Alexandria and Qalyubia currently lead the nation in terms of infections, Health Minister Hala Zayed said. Covid-19 related deaths that occur at home are still included in the daily tally, the minister said.

We so far have 364 hospitals outfitted with 35k beds for covid-19 patients, Health Minister Hala Zayed said at yesterday’s cabinet meeting. There are also currently 27 quarantine facilities nationwide devoted exclusively to covid-19 cases. The medical facilities currently have access to a total 2.4k ventilators — 42% of which are currently in use, said Cabinet’s Nader Saad. Another 200 ventilators are expected to soon be distributed.

No holidays for doctors and nursing staff: The Health Ministry has put a freeze on holidays for all medical and nursing staff at ministry-affiliated hospitals and medical centers, according to a notice sent out by the minister’s office.

Egypt will approve a covid-19 vaccine — likely the Sinopharm shot — next week, Zayed said yesterday. Egypt’s priority is to import the Sinopharm vaccine, though the ministry is also looking at jabs from Moderna and Pfizer, Zayed said. The government is working to increase its stock of covid-19 vaccines and is expecting further deliveries of the Sinopharm vaccine soon, while also having applied to receive vaccines through the WHO’s Covax scheme. Distribution of the first doses of the vaccine kicked off earlier this week across the country’s 27 governorates. First in line: healthcare workers, followed by seniors and high-risk individuals, with a particular focus on areas that are seeing an increase in cases. Reuters also had the story.

We should also begin manufacturing the Sinopharm vaccine within the coming months with an eye to becoming a manufacturing and distribution hub for the rest of Africa and the Middle East, the minister said at a presser.

Interim results suggest the Sinopharm jab is 86% effective. Full Chinese approval for use of the vaccine is expected any day now, the Financial TImes reports, and medical professionals are looking forward to the publication of data that will allow them to have confidence in the shot, which was approved for use in the UAE on 9 December after clinical trials in Egypt, the UAE, Peru, Argentina, Morocco and Jordan.

On the new covid-19 variant, the Health Ministry regularly runs tests on the genetic variations of the virus and is monitoring new covid cases for signs of the new strain that has thrown the UK and much of Europe for a loop, as well as screening and testing those returning from the UK, Zayed said.


On top of its own mutated strain, the UK now has the new (even more transmissible) covid-19 variant detected in South Africa after at least two cases were identified in travelers who recently returned from South Africa to the UK, the Financial Times reports. The UK and South Africa variants both have an unusually high number of genetic mutations — over 20 — indicating that the virus has changed at a rapid pace.

But, but, but… Yes, the virus in the UK picked up mutations really, really quickly — but some scientists are suggesting that while we should be concerned, we need to learn more before we completely freak out. Science magazine has a very balanced rundown.

Covid outbreaks are likely to remain with us for most of this decade: That’s according to BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin, who said that outbreaks of new strains will become the “new normal” in the 2020s. A decade of lockdowns can be prevented, he said, but it might require that more than 60-70% of the global population is vaccinated. The World Health Organization has estimated that some 60% of people need to have a vaccine if we’re to achieve herd immunity.

The world is going to need to level-up production to make that happen: We might be waiting until 2022 for manufacturers to build capacity to supply the world with the volume of shots necessary to put this thing to bed, Reuters reports.

Abu Dhabi has picked an interesting time to reopen its doors to tourists: As countries around the world panic about the covid-UK strain crossing their borders, the emirate has decided to welcome visitors back into the country, the Culture and Tourism Department said in a press release (pdf). Travellers will be granted entry provided they’re from countries on a green list and provide a negative PCR test.

Who’s on that green list? Australia, China, Saudi Arabia and Greenland are among the 16 standouts right now. Egypt, Canada, the US and the rest of the world are not.

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