Egypt ranks 1st. regional, 5th. worldwide in undercounting COVID-19 deaths, says report

Egypt has ranked fifth worldwide in underreporting coronavirus and first in the Middle East, according to a report recently published by the World Bank, citing a research paper.

According to the World Bank report, Egypt’s ratio of reported deaths to excess mortality was 13.1 in the first year of the pandemic.

The research paper, cited by the World Bank report, examines the death rates over the first year of the pandemic in 103 countries, using a metric called the undercount ratio to compare excess mortality — the number of deaths in a country from all causes above the expected number of deaths over a specific period — to officially reported COVID-19 deaths.

Excess mortality is widely considered an objective indicator of the deaths caused by pandemics and other extreme events. A high undercount ratio implies that unknown and unreported COVID-19 deaths were missed in the official count.

Analysts and doctors in Egypt have, since the start of the pandemic, accused Egypt of undercounting the real figures of deaths and infection rate, but in response have faced punitive action including jail sentences.

Doctors have also asked for adequate PPE and called out the government on why the healthcare system is so badly underfunded.

One journalist was expelled from the country after she wrote a report casting doubt over the government’s official statistics.

One of the reasons for this is the hit Egypt has taken to its tourism industry. In the middle of August the World Travel and Tourism Council announced that the Egyptian economy was losing an estimated $2 million a day when it was included on the UK travel red list.

As well as controlling the narrative, the government has been accused of not enforcing preventative measures such as mask wearing and fines for employees who don’t get the vaccine.

According to the World Bank report, which focuses on socio-economic trends and public health systems in the Middle East and North Africa, Egypt’s ratio of excess mortality to reported COVID-19 deaths stood at 13.1 as of November 30, 2020, by far the highest undercount ratio in the Middle East and North Africa, and the fifth highest in the world.

While the World Bank report does not provide the statistical data behind the calculation, official government numbers related to the coronavirus pandemic in Egypt have long been called into question. Last year, a member of the Cabinet’s coronavirus committee estimated that the actual number of COVID-19 infections in the country was ten times higher than the official government toll.

Egypt’s reporting policies on the pandemic have also created statistical aberrations. For example, Egypt has exhibited one of the highest coronavirus death rates — the number of official COVID-19 deaths compared to the number of recorded cases — in the world.

Last year, the discrepancy was a result of limited testing policies and due to any positive cases recorded outside of the Health Ministry’s Central Labs being excluded from the official count, resulting in a large number of cases going unaccounted for, according to a report by Mada Masr.

The number of new cases and deaths recorded daily in Egypt has increased steadily since mid-August, with officials saying that Egypt is currently in its fourth wave of the pandemic.

According to the latest official figures, a total of 311,576 have contracted COVID-19 in Egypt over the course of the pandemic and 17,658 have died.

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate announced in September that 600 doctors had died since the start of the pandemic.

Though Egypt’s Health Ministry announced an ambitious target to vaccinate 70 percent of the country’s 100-million strong population before the end of 2021, the ministry announced last week that only seven million people have received both doses of the vaccine so far, while 13 million have had at least one shot.

The World Bank report states how underfunded health systems left the Middle East and North Africa “ill-prepared to respond to the pandemic,” and that the cumulative cost of GDP losses by the end of the year will be almost $200 billion.

It also predicts that 13 of the 16 countries in the region will have lower living standards than before the pandemic after 2021.