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Sunday, 9 May 2021

New testing requirement for visitors to Egypt + Sinopharm gets WHO approval

Travelers arriving in Egypt from countries where covid-19 variants have been identified will be administered rapid covid tests, Health Minister Hala Zayed said in a meeting Friday, according to a Health Ministry statement. The ID NOW rapid molecular tests should produce results within 15 minutes, the minister said. Travelers must still also show a negative PCR test before boarding their flight to Egypt.

The Health Ministry reported 1,132 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 1,125 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 236,272 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 66 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 13,845.

As of the end of last week, 70.6% of the country’s ICU beds were occupied and some 42% of ventilators in isolation facilities were in use, Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 17:17). The ministry is keeping a close eye on oxygen supplies and consumption levels to ensure that hospitals do not face any shortages, Megahed said.

The vaccination center at the international exhibition center is currently operating on a trial basis and will be open to the public tomorrow, Megahed told Lamees. The center is expected to be able to vaccinate 10k people per day.

WHO has given emergency approval to the use of China’s Sinopharm jab in a major boost to the vaccine’s credibility, potentially paving the way for mns of doses to reach needy countries through the Gavi / Covax program, according to a statement. The move to OK emergency use of the first Chinese vaccine comes after the World Health Organization had already greenlit jabs being made by Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, and Oxford / AstraZeneca.

Meanwhile, Sinovac could get the green light from the WHO as early as next week, according to the Guardian.

Egypt is expected to get its hands on 1 mn doses of Sinopharm and 500k of Sinovac this month over several shipments. The country will begin locally manufacturing Sinovac next month, with plans to manufacture 40-60 mn doses of the vaccine each year. The Sinovac vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of 50.4% in preventing symptomatic infections — well below the 79% efficacy rate Sinopharm has claimed — is now cleared for emergency use in Egypt.

Egypt co-sponsors proposal to waive covid vaccine IP rights: Egypt is among 60 countries co-sponsoring a proposal to waive intellectual property rights on covid-19 vaccines in order to allow more countries to produce the jabs and speed up vaccination in developing countries. The proposal, originally pushed (pdf) by South Africa and India back in October, is still being considered by the World Trade Organization. More than 100 of the WTO’s 164 members are said to be in favor, and the Biden administration’s decision last week to back the proposal may be accelerating the process, but changes to WTO rules require a consensus of all members.

The World Health Organization heralded it as a "monumental moment" in the battle against the pandemic and Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on governments to work together to ensure low- and middle-income countries are able to access vaccines.

But not everyone is on board: Novavax and Pfizer argue that allowing more companies to produce their vaccines would lead to a shortage of raw materials and render existing manufacturers unable to sustain current production levels. Germany — home of BioNTech, which supplied the technology for the Pfizer vaccine — has also come out against the proposal, making the chances of a united European position slimmer.

Egypt’s Eva Pharma will supply India with 300k doses of antiviral Remdesivir to help combat the country’s surge in COVID-19 infections, the Indian embassy in Cairo said in a press release (pdf) Thursday. India may be heading towards a nationwide shutdown as two more states in the country declared lockdowns amid a surge in covid-19 infections and a shortage in oxygen and medical supplies, the Associated Press reports. The country has now over 21 mn confirmed infections.

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