Coronavirus: Egypt seeks more COVID-19 vaccines as infections surge

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Egypt is working to boost its supply of coronavirus vaccines as the number of recorded infections rises, the health minister said on Wednesday.

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The country signed a contract to get vaccines developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) on December 4 and is expecting further deliveries after receiving the first batch earlier this month, Hala Zayed told reporters.

Medical staff and people with chronic diseases would get priority, Zayed said, without giving details on the quantity of vaccines or timeframe. Local media reported that the first batch contained 50,000 doses.

“We are working with more companies to get the largest possible number of vaccines,” said Zayed, noting that daily cases had been rising gradually since the end of October and more sharply this week.

Egypt, with a population of just over 100 million, has also applied to receive vaccines through the World Health Organization’s global COVAX scheme.

In total, nearly 127,000 infections and 7,000 deaths have been confirmed in Egypt since the start of the pandemic. The government recorded 911 new COVID-19 infections on Wednesday and 42 deaths, up from 788 infections and 37 deaths on Tuesday.

Health officials say the real number is likely far higher because of the relatively low rate of coronavirus testing.

The government introduced some restrictions on movement including a night curfew during a first wave of infections earlier in the year.

It has forbidden large gatherings to celebrate the new year but in recent weeks has mainly depended on urging citizens to take precautions. However, many do not wear masks in public spaces and transport, despite the threat of fines.

On Wednesday the cabinet extended a series of measures including tax breaks to prop up the tourism sector, which has lost almost all its business due to the pandemic.

Zayed said Egypt had 363 hospitals that could receive COVID-19 patients with 4,500 intensive care beds and 2,500 ventilators.

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