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Monday, 4 January 2021

Investigation into Sharqia hospital deaths

Prosecutors are investigating the deaths of four covid-19 patients from an alleged oxygen shortage at El Husseineya Central Hospital, a public facility in Sharqia, several news outlets reported (Al Shorouk | El Watan | Al Masry Al Youm). This followed a video posted on social media (runtime: 0:45) featuring a doctor alleging that all patients in an ICU wing at the hospital died. Health Minister Hala Zayed denied the facility lacked oxygen and Sharqia Governor Mamdouh Ghorab said the patients had pre-existing “chronic diseases,” (watch, runtime: 4:18). A similar incident in Zefta General Hospital in Gharbia is also under investigation.

The story dominated the conversation on the airwaves last night: El Hekaya’s Amr Adib dedicated a lengthy segment to the story (watch, runtime: 28:49) before phoning Health Ministry Spokesperson Khaled Megahed and head of the medical supplies division at Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce Mohamed Ismail. Megahed said that the deaths were the result of negligence and not an oxygen shortage (watch, runtime: 5:45) while Ismail claimed they were likely caused by “an administrative error” (watch, runtime: 6:46). Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 7:44) and Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal also covered the story (watch, runtime: 6:17).

The story received plenty of ink in the foreign press: Associated Press | AFP | Asharq Al Awsat | Gulf News.

Lowest daily covid tally in a week: The Health Ministry reported 1,309 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 1,407 the day before and the lowest since 27 December when the ministry reported 1,226 cases. The ministry also reported 64 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 7,805. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 142,187 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Anti-vaxxers, you won’t be fined for turning down the jab — but we’ll continue to judge. The Cabinet dismissed a rumor that people who decide against taking the covid-19 vaccine will be fined EGP 10k, saying that this will be a voluntary decision.

Pfizer and BioNTech have offered to supply Africa with 50 mn covid-19 vaccines for health workers between March and the end of the year, South African President and current African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa told Bloomberg yesterday. Pfizer confirmed talks are underway with the African Union, but gave no further details.

No mention was made of whether any of these vaccines would be allocated to Egypt, but the government is already in talks with AstraZeneca and Pfizer and is also hoping to get some 20 mn doses of a still undetermined vaccine from global vaccine alliance Gavi around May 2021.

Israel is going hell for leather to get its population vaccinated: Some 12% of Israelis (1.1 mn people) have already received the first dose of the two-shot Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and the government aims to start handing out jabs to the general public by late March or early April, Bloomberg reports.

Over in Europe, governments are looking at either extending or tightening covid-19 restrictions as case numbers continue to surge after the emergence of the faster-spreading variant. German officials will meet this week to decide whether to prolong a lockdown which will expire on 10 January, France has just recently extended a nighttime curfew by two hours, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hinting at tougher restrictions just around the corner.

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