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Sunday, 14 February 2021

Are we in a third wave now?

Covid cases could be on track to peak in April: That was Health Minister Hala Zayed’s message to the World Health Organization (WHO) during a meeting on Thursday, explaining that the expectation is based on cases typically peaking in the seventh week of each wave, Zayed said. While the minister did not explicitly say it, our math suggests that being seven weeks out from the “peak” means that we are now in the third wave, putting us on track to hit the next crescendo about a week before Ramadan. Presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Eldin had said last month that we had already passed the peak of the second wave.

Cases have risen steadily the past seven days, hitting 600 new cases last night after touching a low of 509 last Saturday, 6 February. New cases hit 603 on Thursday evening and 609 in Friday night’s report.

Reason for (cautious) optimism: Deaths have been inching down over the past few days from 53 on Thursday and 42 on Friday, to 36 reported yesterday. This is the lowest single-day death toll since 22 December. Then again: Deaths are a trailing indicator, and the uptick in new cases this past week suggests it will rise again.

Shoring up our oxygen reserves + supplies: Egypt has 1.16 mn liters of liquid oxygen in reserve, Zayed said at a meeting of the covid-19 crisis management committee yesterday, and the Health Ministry has purchased 1.7k new oxygen flowmeters to replace old meters and minimize oxygen waste, according to a cabinet statement. Zayed’s status report on Egypt’s oxygen supplies comes after public hospitals came under scrutiny last month, when alleged oxygen shortages reportedly resulted in the death of four covid-19 patients.

Patients with chronic illnesses and all medical staff at all hospitals across the country will begin receiving covid-19 vaccines as of next Saturday, after the ministry completed the inoculation of medical staff at 363 isolation and fever hospitals last week, Zayed said at the Thursday WHO meeting.

We’re waiting for at least two large shipments of vaccine by the end of February, including the first shipments from a 5-8 mn dose order from Covax and some 300k from China’s Sinopharm.

Speaking of which: The WHO still needs USD 27 bn to fund its Covax scheme to ensure equitable covid-19 vaccine distribution to developing countries, leaving many countries at risk of spikes in infection and death rates, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing on Thursday.

An all-in-one shot on the horizon? German pharma company CureVac plans to use artificial intelligence to predict future covid-19 mutations, and has partnered with the UK government and GlaxoSmithKline to rapidly produce mRNA vaccines in response, Bloomberg reports. The companies also plan to develop a vaccine that can address multiple variants in one shot.

African countries that are unaffected by the South African covid-19 variant should go ahead with the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on Wednesday. The WHO is still recommending the vaccine even for countries with the variant strain, the Washington Post reported.

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