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Monday, 15 March 2021

Mixed signals at public venues + next big vaccine shipment arrives end of March

All outdoor arts, culture, and entertainment events — including concerts — are now allowed to operate at 50% capacity, rolling back a three-month ban the Madbouly Cabinet had imposed late last year in a bid to contain the spread of the virus, according to a cabinet statement yesterday. The move to relax restrictions on outdoor gatherings comes after the Culture Ministry proposed resuming arts and culture events that were earlier pushed back. Book fairs will also resume across the country soon, Culture Minister Enas Abdel Dayem told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 7:57). The decision also comes as daily cases continue to creep up, giving rise to expectations that a third wave is on our doorstep.

Moving in the opposite direction: Churches in Upper Egypt’s Qena will temporarily shut down today through 3 April, with masses and other activities suspended, in a bid to curb the rising number of covid-19 cases in the governorate, the Bishop of Qena said in a statement.

Cases are rising in some governorates as more people get “pandemic fatigue” and get increasingly lax with preventive measures, Mohamed Abdel Fattah, head of the Health Ministry’s Central Administration for Preventive Affairs, told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi. Among the governorates seeing an uptick is Aswan, but ICUs in the governorate are not yet at full capacity, according to Abdel Fattah (watch, runtime: 10:25).

The latest on vaccines here at home: Our first batch of the 8.6 mn AstraZeneca doses from the WHO’s Gavi / Covax program is now expected to arrive at the end of March, Abdel Fattah told Lamees. The first shipment will be 6 mn jabs. So far, around 400k individuals have registered for a jab through the Health Ministry’s website and the pace of registration is picking up after being initially slow, he said (watch, runtime: 1:51). The shipment of 300k doses of Sinopharm jabs China is gifting us has arrived and we’re running tests on a sample of the shipment, Lamees’ sources tell her (watch, runtime: 2:10).

All of these incoming jabs will help accelerate our vaccination program and people will notice a marked uptick in speed this week, Abdel Fattah said. Those who are eligible for vaccines at the current stage — individuals above the age of 65 and / or who suffer from chronic conditions — could get the AstraZeneca jab, he said (watch, runtime: 2:15).

The Health Ministry reported 644 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 641 the day before. The ministry also reported 44 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 11,300. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 190,924 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Among the deaths: Four staff members at Alexandria Faculty of Medicine passed away due to complications related to covid-19 in the past two days, Al Masry Al Youm reports, citing an unnamed faculty source.

Nearly half of Italy will be back into lockdown as of today, as authorities aim to curb a recent spike in cases, Reuters reports. A nationwide lockdown will also be enforced during Easter weekend at the beginning of April, the government announced after cases rose 10% last week.

The rollout of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Europe has run into a wall as more governments suspend the jab due to safety concerns. Netherlands and Ireland yesterday joined (pdf) a growing list of European countries halting shots, including Austria, Italy, Norway, and Denmark, after several batches of the vaccine were linked to blood clotting, despite a European regulator saying there was no link. AstraZeneca echoed the same results following a review of more than 17 mn people vaccinated with its jab in the UK and EU, which the drugmaker said showed no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots.

The one bit of silver lining for the EU: The bloc could meet its first-quarter covid-19 vaccination plan targets as Pfizer ramps up its jab deliveries to Europe in a bid to help bridge the gap Reuters reports. The EU's vaccination program is already hampered by repeated delays in deliveries of AstraZeneca, which cut planned 1Q2021 to one third of its contractual obligation.

Dubai is running a trial of a covid breath-test: Developed by the National University of Singapore’s Breathonix, the test is designed to detect the virus through a breath sample and produce results in just one minute, Bloomberg says. Clinical trials are currently underway on 2.5k patients to assess its accuracy.

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