Egypt refuted media reports that estimates the real number of coronavirus cases in the thousands, stressing that the total number of cases is not even close to these figures, according to a statement on the Egyptian cabinet’s official Facebook page.
According to the latest figures announced by Minister of Information Osama Heikal on Monday, the number of infected cases in Egypt reached 150, including 80 Egyptians, with three deaths so far.
Heikal said that the aviation sector in the country is suffering from a $2 bn loss, while the tourism sector has around $1 m in a month.
On Sunday, some international media outlets, including The Guardian, and The New York Times, reported speculations about the number of coronavirus cases in Egypt to be between 6,000 and 45,000 cases, with 19,000 being the closest.
The above-mentioned coverage was based on a statistical model announced by a researcher working for Bluedot, a company that sells early warning public health systems.
Isaac Bogoch, the researcher who has done this work in collaboration with others has not even published his work in a reputable magazine or journal but on his twitter feed, as the manuscript was rejected by scientific journals, according to the researcher himself.
In his tweets, Bogoch claimed “Egypt likely has significantly more COVID-19 cases than reported and is likely exporting cases globally. We estimate the case number at 19,310 cases (95% CI: 6,270 – 45,070 cases).”
He further said that several Nile tour operators have recently been diagnosed with the disease, so according to his estimations “these values may overestimate the burden in Egypt if tourists are preferentially affected and exporting cases.”
After being attacked by some commentators on his post asking about his methodology and how his results could be trusted if rejected by scientific magazines, Bogoch said that many of the commentators didn’t read his thread, saying that the real number is perhaps closer to 6000 cases, showing no evidence for his claims.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Egypt John Jabbour, praised Egypt’s response to the cases, through tracing and controlling it. During an interview with CNN on Monday, Jabbour said Egypt was successful in containing the disease since its first appearance among tourists.
He also added that the Egyptian health ministry is collaborating with the WHO in combating the spread of the pandemic.
Furthermore, the Egyptian cabinet announced many measures as part of the state’s programme to contain COVID-19. The plan includes shutting down airports, and suspending all flights from 19 to 31 March, as well as sterilising and disinfecting all tourist facilities in this period.
The government also said that it will not tolerate public gatherings, justifying the harsh decisions for the good of the public and to protect citizens from the pandemic, despite the heavy economic cost of these procedures.
The total number of confirmed infections approached 174,786 cases globally, 6,705 cases resulting in death and 77,657 recovering.
Mike Ryan, WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies Programme said in press statements on Monday that “respiratory diseases can spread efficiently in winter, not necessarily because of the temperature but because human beings come together in closed environments and therefore transmission is more facilitated. We’ve seen COVID-19 now in a number of different climates.”