A new coronavirus outbreak has gotten countries all over the world in a state of alarm, with many taking precautionary measures to prevent its spread. The outbreak is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China and has infected 4,500 people and killed over 100 individuals.
In recent days, many Arab countries have started screening passengers arriving from China at local airports to ensure the individuals are virus-free. On Thursday, Egypt began its screening process just like other countries in the region including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Morocco. The only difference is that reports regarding Egypt's "other" precautionary measures surfaced.
This week, several media outlets began reporting that the country's Ministry of Health launched campaigns in several governorates in Egypt to check Chinese restaurants. The aim of the campaigns was "health control" amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Egypt Today cited a statement by the Ministry of Health that reportedly said Chinese restaurants, as well as Chinese workers, will be fully inspected to ensure the virus isn't present. It wasn't clear whether any of the workers had been to China since the outbreak or whether the restaurant supplies had been imported recently. If none of the workers had been to China since the outbreak, Egypt's alleged inspection is flawed and illogical.
The ministry has since denied all these claims. According to Al-Ahram, an Egypt-owned publication, the Ministry of Health has refuted the media reports regarding the health campaigns.
Health ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed said the "ministry's food supervision directorate conducts periodic campaigns to inspect food establishments nationwide to make sure they meet the required health conditions and terms in accordance with the law."
It really isn't clear what is the truth and what is a cover-up, but media reports are usually based on something. The fact that Egypt Today cited the ministry makes the ministry's "denial of the claims" seem quite suspicious.
What is Egypt doing to prevent coronavirus?
The deadly virus has affected 18 areas since the outbreak was first reported. Some of the countries that have witnessed cases of coronavirus include the U.S. (5), France (3), and Australia (5). Fortunately enough, the Arab region hasn't seen any case of the virus as of yet. Precautionary measures have been taken seriously in many countries, including Egypt. Here's what it has done so far:
1. It first started by screening passengers arriving from China
2. It also instructed flight attendants (on flights heading to Egypt) to report any suspected coronavirus cases among travelers
3. It has since suspended all flights from or to China until further notice
On Sunday, The Association of Egyptian Travel Agencies banned all tourism flights linked to China. All the Chinese tourism companies' bookings in Egypt's Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, and Aswan were canceled, according to China Travel News.
What is coronavirus, anyway?
According to WHO, coronaviruses (CoV) "are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)."
The latest coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that was identified in humans for the first time recently. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted between animals and people. Research conducted on previous outbreaks found that SARS was first transmitted to humans from civet cats while MERS saw infections originate in dromedary camels. The exact animal source of the current outbreak has yet to be confirmed, but two recent research papers said that bats and snakes could be possible culprits.
While the current outbreak does not appear to be as deadly as SARS, it may be spreading more quickly, according to CNN.