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Published in Ahram Online on 02 - 02 - 2021

UK vaccine received
EGYPT received 50,000 shots of the UK AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday, just a few hours after the Egyptian Drug Authority gave the green light for its emergency use against Covid-19. Egypt plans to purchase 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to authority officials.
The vaccine is produced by Serum Institute of India under a contract with the British firm AstraZeneca. Prior to its approval, the vaccine underwent the necessary evaluation tests in laboratories of the drug authority to ensure its safety, quality, and effectiveness, authority spokesperson Ali Al-Ghamrawi stated. The AstraZeneca vaccine requires administering two doses 21 days apart and does not need ultra-cold storage, a feature that makes it easier to roll out in hot countries. AstraZeneca is the second Covid-19 vaccine after the China-made Sinopharm to be granted emergency use in Egypt. The first batch of Sinopharm was received in December. The effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine has been subject to controversy on social media.
As part of the state's efforts to combat the pandemic and provide several vaccines, the drug authority is in the process of authorising a Russian coronavirus vaccine. The remaining vaccines on the market have been currently evaluated by the drug authority. The cost of each vaccine will be announced soon. Medical teams and people receiving financial aid from the state will get vaccinated free of charge, according to Health Minister Hala Zayed.
The Ministry of Health will start vaccinating elderly people together with people with chronic diseases in mid-February, Zayed stated. Spokesperson of the Health Ministry Khaled Megahed earlier said that those who want to receive the vaccine should register on an online website.
Last week, Egypt started vaccinating medical teams at isolation hospitals nationwide. The vaccine currently administered is Sinopharm, which consists of two shots given 21 days apart. A total of 1,315 medical staffers have received the first dose of Sinopharm in 22 isolation and fever hospitals, Zayed announced on Friday. The country's vaccination priority list starts with frontline healthcare workers at isolation, fever, chest, and screening hospitals.
In November, Egypt entered the second wave of the pandemic which reached its peak in late December. Egypt announced 541 new coronavirus cases and 44 virus related deaths on Monday. The country reported a total of 166,492 cases by Monday, including 130,107 recoveries and 9,360 deaths.

Natural gas giant
EGYPT is on its way to becoming one of the world's top 10 natural gas exporters, Bloomberg news agency reported. The Egyptian government is working to increase its exports of liquefied natural gas and has reopened one of its major production facilities that will allow it to reach its 2021 target production capacity, according to Bloomberg.
In its report published on Thursday last week, the US economic news agency referred to recent statements by Petroleum Minister Tarek Al-Molla regarding the reopening of a natural gas facility in Damietta. Al-Molla said that the Damietta facility will be reopened by the end of February following an eight-year hiatus. The Damietta plant is expected to process about 4.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas annually and hence raise Egypt's production capacity to 12.5 million tons.
Al-Molla added that natural gas prices witnessed a decline during 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic but that demand later rose in October. According to Al-Molla, “we have already booked all our volumes to be exported from the Idku plant up until the end of March. In the next two weeks, state gas firms will offer onshore and offshore exploration blocks for bids from energy companies.” Al-Molla said Egypt plans to become a major gas supplier to the European continent.

Egyptians held hostage in Libya
LIBYAN sources have confirmed that 38 Egyptian citizens are being held hostage near the Bani Walid city in western Libya. The families of the hostages have called on Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to release them. The Libyan newspaper Al-Marsad quoted anonymous sources as saying that criminal gangs are holding the hostages near a farm not far from the capital of Tripoli and are demanding a ransom for their release. The kidnapped Egyptians had entered Libya illegally from the Qena governorate. The criminals bargained with the families of the victims to obtain a ransom of 15,000 Libyan dinars for each individual.
This is the second kidnapping incident in a week after unidentified people in the Libyan city of Tobruk had kidnapped 10 Egyptians from Beni Sweif governorate who had gone there to work. The kidnappers demanded huge sums of money as ransom. Hostages who were able to communicate with their families told them that the kidnappers are holding other Egyptians coming from various parts of the country.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 February , 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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