January 2022: The Omicron variant has spread quickly and is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in Egypt, acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said at a Cabinet meeting late in January. The Health Ministry also announced receiving three million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in January. The shipment came through COVAX mechanism, in cooperation with the International Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI). An official report from the Health Ministry shows that Egypt has so far received 119.3 million doses of various coronavirus vaccines and delivered around 55.7 million of them.
December 2021: Egypt witnessed a spike in infections at the end of December, coinciding with the holiday period, when travel and gatherings increased. Egypt was already in the midst of a fourth wave when the first Omicron cases were detected on December 18. The Ministry of Health and Population said it’s continued its preparations across all its governorates, follow up on the situation first-hand regarding the “emerging corona virus”, and taken all necessary preventive measures against any viruses or infectious diseases. The Ministry also allocated a number of means of communication to receive citizens’ inquiries about the emerging corona virus and infectious diseases. In recent months the government stepped up its vaccination campaign and introduced further restrictive measures. The Cabinet approved in December booster shots, prioritising the elderly and those with medical conditions.
November 2021: Egypt has witnessed a rise in coronavirus infections in recent weeks amid efforts to expand the country’s mass vaccination campaign. The government estimated in October that Egypt had administrated a total of 35 million coronavirus vaccine doses so far. Egypt rolled out its vaccination programme in January, starting with healthcare workers and opened it to citizens over the age of 18 in March. Registration for the jab is open to all. Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly is calling on citizens to quickly get the vaccine, especially ahead of a November 15 deadline for university students and public sector employees. The country has so far received 72 million vaccine doses and is expecting another 26 million. Around 500,000 inoculations are carried out daily, while the number of hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 treatment and isolation have reached 424 in the country.
October 2021: Egypt is facing a fourth COVID-19 wave, with daily cases ten times higher than those registered at the end of July. But according to the Health Ministry, official figures may represent only 10 percent of actual cases. The Head of the Central Administration for Preventive Medicine Affairs at the Ministry of Health Mohamed Abdel Fattah recently reiterated the need for the entire population to adhere to precautionary measures. Officials have been discussing the possibility to reinstate some of the COVID-19 related restriction measures that were lifted back in June. Eygpt’s COVID-19 levels are listed as Level 2 “moderate” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only about 11 percent of the population has received one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while less than 6 percent are fully vaccinated.
Factory Service Update
The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Egypt has slowed the pace of Better Work Egypt’s activities and services, which were launched in March 2020. Still, some 40 firms have so far enrolled in the first phase and have started to receive Better Work factory engagement services. More than half of some 23,000 workers employed in these plants are women.
Egypt has experienced a “new normal” following the COVID-19 disruptions. Better Work has adapted to the new situation by providing both in-factory services and virtual follow up sessions. Throughout the crisis, Egypt’s Ministry of Manpower, Better Work Egypt and their partners have mostly focused on the implementation and supervision of preventive measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus at the workplace and across the factory floor.
Factories are open across Egypt and work proceeds regularly across the country.
A Ministry of Health-led vaccination programme started in October, targeting Egypt’s workforce employed in the country’s industrial zones. Mobile clinics from the Ministry of Health, with a capacity of around a hundred doses each, are providing inoculations to workers on-site. Depending on each factory, between 20 and 80 percent of the workforce employed in companies affiliated with Better Work Egypt have received at least one shot so far, according to the UN programme. The government is planning to vaccinate all workers registering via its website by March 2022.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Manpower and local partners, the programme has developed a COVID-19 precautionary manual. Thirty thousand printed copies have been distributed to tripartite constituents and enterprises so far, in an effort to normalize COVID-19 precautionary protocol.
Better Work and the Ministry of Manpower joined together for the creation of COVID-19 awareness posters to shed light on symptoms and prevention measures at the workplace. Posters have been shared through the ministry’s website as well as through the Federation of Egyptian Industries and workers’ organizations platforms and their respective members.
Better Work’s on-site services have been delivered across the country’s factories since late August, 2020, with no disruption. Prior to August, services were delivered virtually.
Following a first round of advisory sessions that happened in a virtual form during the country’s lockdown in 2020, Enterprise Advisors have been conducting in-person visits for both, advisory services and assessments with no recorded disruption. Better Work Enterprise Advisors have started to begin collaborating with OSH committees inside the factories during advisory services.
Training service: Training courses have been introduced with both on-site and online/e-learning courses. These courses were primarily focused on Occupational Safety and Health topics, such as general OSH risk assessment, roles and responsibilities of the OSH committee, accident investigation procedures, and fire safety.
Additional Better Work Activities
The larger ILO project of which Better Work is part and its partners made their most crucial step forward in November 2020. The Ministry of Manpower established a mechanism for grievances to ease trade union registrations. The creation of a national mechanism with the task of receiving trade union complaints related to these matters of contention and the initiative to fix them represents a crucial step for the harmonization of relations among the tripartite constituents.
Three tripartite meetings have been organized so far, bringing together the country’s government, employer, and worker representatives. About 40 participants joined in each event, which focused on the progress made by the project, measured against the work plan drafted after the first tripartite meeting. These included identifying suitable indicators to measure the project ’s progress and problems linked to the trade union registration process, improving the tripartite dialogue at the national level, identifying the support needs of the constituents, and discussing the progress of the Better Work Egypt programme.
Formal discussions about the Better Work Zero Tolerance Protocol (ZTP) mechanism to report serious violations and threats to workers’ lives is currently ongoing between Better Work and the Ministry of Manpower. Through this protocol, the government authorities are informed about any critical issues in order to take immediate action.