At least 17 medics in Egypt’s main cancer hospital have been quarantined after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said Saturday, raising fears the pandemic could prey on health facilities in the Arab world’s most populous country. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Ministry of Housing has reportedly ordered return of 4 million people to work.
Egypt has reported around 1,000 confirmed cases and 66 fatalities from the global pandemic. Authorities have closed schools and mosques, banned public gatherings and imposed a nighttime curfew to prevent the virus from spreading among the population of 100 million, a fifth of whom live in the densely-populated capital, Cairo.
Dr. Hatem Abu el-Kassem, the director of the National Cancer Institute, said three doctors and 12 nurses tested positive for the virus. He said all other health workers at the facility, which is affiliated with Cairo University and treats hundreds of cancer patients every day, would be tested. The university later said a total of 17 health workers tested positive.
The institute will be partly closed for three days to be sterilized, with only the emergency ward remaining open.
Several doctors took to social media to criticize the institute’s leadership for not taking restrictive measures earlier.
Maggie Mousa, an anesthesiologist at the institute, tweeted that one of her close friends was infected. She accused top officials of mismanagement and negligence for not imposing restrictions after the first case was detected more than a week ago.
انهارده اكتشفت اصابه واحده من اعز أصدقائي ب COVID 19 و احتمال كبير جدا أكون انا كمان! طبعا كل ده اراده ربنا بس احنا دكاترة في معهد الاورام و من أسبوع اكتشف المعهد حالات بين التمريض و رفضوا تماما اَي إجراءات لحمايتها و عزل المعهد و كانت النتيجة أنهاره ١٠ حالات اصابه منهم ٤ دكاترة— Maggie Mousa (@magysaeed) April 3, 2020
“They refused to take any measures to protect her and isolate the institute,” she said.
On Friday, Mousa tweeted, saying: “Today I found out that one of my best friends has contracted COVID-19 and it is very likely that I also contracted the virus! We are doctors at the Cancer Institute, and a week ago some infected cases emerged in the institute among the nursing team, but the government refused to take any measures to protect doctors and the rest of the medical team … As a result, 10 more cases were discovered today, including 4 doctors.”
Cairo University said it has established a fact-finding mission to investigate the measures taken by the institute to prevent the virus from spreading.
The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness or death, particularly in older patients or those with underlying health problems, including cancer patients.
More than a million people have been infected worldwide and more than 50,000 have died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus. More than 200,000 have recovered, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
Egypt’s Health Ministry reported a spike in cases on Friday, with 120 new infections and eight fatalities, its highest one-day tally since the first case was reported in February.
The government has not yet imposed the kind of total lockdown seen in other countries in the region, but officials have said there are plans for stricter measures if needed.
The worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East is in Iran, where the Health Ministry on Saturday reported another 158 deaths. That brings the overall number of fatalities there to 3,452, amid 55,743 confirmed cases. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said more than 4,000 patients are in serious condition.
Egyptian government orders return of 4 million people to work amid COVID-19 outbreak!!
Despite the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic all over Egypt, the Egyptian Ministry of Housing has announced the return of 4 million workers, technicians and engineers, to work in construction projects at full capacity next week, confirming that the construction companies will not suspend work due to losses, reported Rassd News Network in a tweet on its account on Twitter Saturday.