COVID-19 roundup: July 1
 
 

Editor’s note: The daily COVID-19 roundup is part of the Mada Morning Digest, our daily overview of what is making waves in the Arabic language press. If you want all the latest updates on COVID-19 and other leading stories including coverage of the economy, foreign policy, Parliament, the judiciary, media and much more — to land in your mailbox each morning, subscribe for a free trial here

Here are the latest figures on COVID-19 as of Tuesday, June 30:

New cases Recovered New deaths
1,557 509 81
Total recoveries Total cases Total deaths
18,460 68,311 2,953

 

How has COVID-19 affected labor?

Five hundred workers have been fired from a hotel in the city of Qusayr in the Red Sea Governorate, according to coverage from Al-Masry Al-Youm

Workers in the tourism sector were protected in theory by a government requirement for hotels, agencies and companies to retain and continue paying their workforce as a precondition for receipt of a raft of government relief measures. Yet, employees said that despite the hotel’s getting around LE300,000 in subsidies from the ministry, their salaries were not paid.

As the bottom fell out of international travel and tourism and Egypt implemented a partial domestic lockdown, many workplaces have ground to a halt, workers were often the first to lose out as companies tighten the belt.

After workers at the Red Sea hotel complained against their arbitrary dismissal, a committee from the Manpower Ministry reportedly forged an agreement between management and the workers whereby the workers will receive an end-of-service gratuity equal to two months of salary for each year of service.   

Around LE4,041,100 (US$ 251,000) is also due to be transferred to Egypt from Jordan’s Social Security Corporation, to pay dues owed to Egyptian laborers who have returned from Jordan in the wake of the pandemic. Egypt’s Manpower Ministry was likewise responsible for intervening to ensure these workers were paid, reaching the social security body via the Egyptian embassy in Amman.

Private sector unions have also been advocating for support under the conditions imposed by the pandemic, complaining particularly of pay cuts which have shaved as much as 65 percent off some people’s salaries, according to Shabaan Khalifa, the head of the private sector workers syndicate. Praising President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the anniversary of June 30, Khalifa enumerates several workers’ demands, which are headlined by calls for a fair minimum wage and adequate health insurance. 

And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on international labor markets, the International Labour Organization has provided a bleak assessment of the recovery. According to an ILO statement issued yesterday, labor markets will not recover quickly and employment levels are unlikely to reach their pre-COVID19 level this year. 

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What were officials saying about COVID-19 on Tuesday?

“The union has addressed [the public prosecutor] before on the matter of doctors being arrested after publishing their personal opinions about COVID-19 on their social media profiles, which induces a widespread state of anxiety among the doctors who are treating COVID-19 patients on a daily basis.” — A letter from the Doctors Syndicate to the Public Prosecution

“We have appealed and whined to many officials and decision-makers, we’ve denounced and expressed our fear of such behavior, we’ve knocked on all doors, we’ve offered solutions, and had we been met with responsiveness, the situation would not have come to this. We lament what has happened to the health system. We lament a system that excludes its youth instead of listening to them at a time when the whole world is resorting to youth to rise and try to progress,” — a statement by the March 2020 class of medical graduates

The professional union for doctors in Egypt continued to push for the release of imprisoned doctors on Tuesday, as well as escalating to the president a call for help in assigning young medical graduates to their professional positions. 

In a letter directed to Egypt’s Public Prosecution on Tuesday, the Doctors Syndicate asked again for Dr. Mohamed al-Fawal to be released from detention. Farwal was reportedly detained after posting about COVID-19 on his social media profile.

Speaking of a widespread state of “anxiety” among the doctors who are responding to the pandemic on the front line, the letter comes against the backdrop of a number of incidents which have seen syndicate members barred from entering a press conference they had scheduled last weekend, while doctors at a Beheira hospital were threatened with military trials in June if they rebelled against the Health Ministry’s directives.

Meanwhile, fresh medical graduates appealed on Tuesday to the president and the prime minister to hold talks with them in place of the Health Ministry.

The graduates are aggrieved after the Health Ministry has repeatedly declined to direct the March 2020 cohort of newly qualified doctors’ requests to be assigned to their residency programs via an old system.

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“We have succeeded in providing power for hospitals … the sector has been affected by total lockdown.”— Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker

Shutting down tourism facilities and schools was the main force driving a major decrease in electricity consumption during the pandemic, according to Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker. Consumption in the industrial sector also dipped, since many factories were reportedly unable to resume operations after implementing the government’s guidelines for infection control.

Shaker was nevertheless keen to note that the sector was able to support hospitals as necessary, and attributed the sector’s successes in expanding electricity production over the past six years.  

Shaker did not speak on the recent hike to electricity tariffs, which saw most household consumers’ bills go up substantially, while commercial and industrial users were spared.

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“Egypt’s high public debt and large financing needs remain a risk and create vulnerability to change in financial markets” — IMF statement

In a statement on its approval for a US$5.2 billion  IMF loan to Egypt under the Stand-By Agreement, the IMF has expressed concern over Egypt’s high levels of public debt.

According to the statement, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Egyptian government succeeded in reducing public debt from 104 percent of GDP in the 2016/17 up to 85 percent in the 2018/19 fiscal year.

Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a large burden on Egypt, and public debt is projected to reach 93 percent by the end of the 2020/21 fiscal year said the IMF, recommending that Egypt reach a 2 percent GDP surplus and return to a downward trend in public debt. 

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Hospitals, medical supplies, and patient care

After a long debate on the need to make masks affordable and available for everyone, the government will be adding masks on the ration card system, reports Cairo24.

The government will be buying each mask for LE8.5. Though it’s not yet clear how much the selling price will be. The Ministry of Military Production and the Supply Ministry will be delivering the masks.

The delayed move is a response to a large-scale supply gap which followed a government mandate to make wearing masks in public spaces obligatory. Soon after, the informal sector sought to fill the gap created by the sudden demand for millions of masks on a daily basis, though the government has been quick to crack down on informal sellers of the masks.

In other news from the health system:

  • The Health Ministry has informed the Cabinet that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the sterilization booths that have been placed outside buildings, including Parliament, reduce the number of COVID-19 infections, despite the cost the government has already incurred by installing them.
  • Remdesivir is being given to be given to some patients, according to the health minister 
  • 20 people have died of the coronavirus in Sohag in 24 hours. 
  • National Research Centre to announce vaccine and three COVID-19 treatments soon.

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Coexistence with COVID-19 goes global today

  • Airports across Egypt are scheduled to reopen starting today, with EgyptAir announcing that a flight to London will be the first regularly scheduled commercial flight leaving Cairo airport since airports were closed in mid-March.
     
  • The Railway Authority announced that all railway lines will return to normal operating capacity starting today.

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Who cares for healthcare workers? 

Deputy head of the Derb Negm Central Hospital in Sharqiya Dr. Wael Salem tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The following medical professionals died from COVID-19 yesterday: 

  • Dr. Ibrahim Moussa Hassan al-Maradani, a psychiatrist in the Mamoura Psychiatric Hospital
  • Dr. Kamal Abdel Naby Saleh, a general surgeon from Bani Soueif. 
  • Pharmacist Abdel Rahman Feteih from Ismailia.
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