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Sunday, 27 December 2020

Church to limit Christmas mass attendance as second wave gains force

Christmas mass at Egypt’s Orthodox churches will be limited to 20 attendees, including priests and other members of the clergy, Pope Tawadros II told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib (watch, runtime: 16:30). The Coptic Orthodox Church has also decided to extend until the end of January its suspension of funerals, mass, and other prayers and services in Cairo and Alexandria as covid-19 cases continue to rise and have so far claimed several lives within the church, Tawadros said.

The Health Ministry reported 1,189 new covid-19 infections yesterday, with Thursday marking the first time the tally crossed the 1k mark since 9 July with 1,021 new cases. Friday’s case count increased further to record 1,133 new cases. The ministry also reported 43 new deaths yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 7,352.

We’re now doubling in one week: It took seven days for total daily cases to double. As of Thursday, it had taken us 13 days for the daily case count to double.

Among the virus’ most high profile victims was the head of Egypt's National Elections Authority, Lashin Ibrahim, who died on Friday of complications from the disease, reports Ahram Gate. Ibrahim was previously an Attorney General at the Public Funds Prosecution and served as VP to the head of the Court of Cassation.

Three newly-elected MPs have now passed away from the disease over the past month, according to Al Masry Al Youm. One of the representatives will be replaced with his daughter, who was listed as his “reserve” candidate, while by-elections will be held to replace the two others, according to Ahram Online.

Zamalek football club head Ahmed Al Bakri also passed away on Thursday from covid-19, reports Youm7.

At least seven people also died in a fire Saturday at the Misr Al Amal hospital, which was treating covid-19 patients in El Obour City, Reuters reports. The fire appears to have been caused by an electrical fault, and the surviving patients were later transferred to a public hospital in Cairo.

As numbers rise, Egypt has signed contracts to obtain 50 mn doses of two vaccines, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said at a press conference, according to a press release (pdf) from the ministry. The final price of the jabs has yet to be determined, but Maait said the government has an “open budget” to ensure the safety of the population.

Which vaccines are we getting? While Maait didn’t specify which vaccine manufacturers were tapped for the incoming supply, Ahram Online reports that we’ll receive 20 mn doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and 30 mn doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is in line with Health Minister Hala Zayed’s statements that we reported on last month. Egypt currently has 500k doses of the Sinopharm vaccine — which it will likely approve in the coming days — and is expecting further deliveries of the vaccine soon. The country has also applied to receive vaccines through the WHO’s Covax scheme.

Meanwhile, China’s Sinovac has reported its covid-19 vaccine is above 50% effective and safe for use based on clinical trials in Brazil involving 13k patients, reports Bloomberg. A 50% efficacy rate is above the minimum threshold for emergency use in many countries including the US; however, the Sinovac jab has fallen behind the Sinopharm vaccine, which is said to be 86% effective, but for which full data has yet to be released.

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