Egypt arrests doctors silences critics of a virus outbreak



A doctor has been arrested after writing an article about Egypt's fragile health system. A pharmacist expert took off from work after posting online about the lack of protective gear. An editor took her home after questioning official coronavirus statistics. A pregnant doctor used her phone after a colleague suspected a coronavirus case.

Security officials have sought to prevent criticism of the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for addressing a health crisis as Egyptian authorities fight the spread of inflammatory coronaviruses.

Rights groups said at least 10 doctors and six journalists have been arrested since the virus first came to Egypt in February. Other health workers said administrators had been warned to remain silent or face punishment. Fearing his arrest, a foreign correspondent fled the country, while another two called to defy the occupation.

Coronavirus infections are on the rise in 100 million people, threatening hospitals. As of Monday, the Ministry of Health had registered 76,253 infections, including 3,343 deaths - the highest deaths in the Arab world.

"Every day I go to work, I sacrifice myself and my family," said a front-line doctor in Cairo, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, with all the doctors interviewed for the story. "Then they arrested my colleagues for texting us. I don't see the light on the horizon."

In 2013, as defense minister, El-Sisi led Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi, to oust the army after protests across the country following his brief reign. In the following years, al-Sisi shut down the dissent of Islamic political opponents, secular activists, journalists, and belly dancers.

The clampdown has now reached out to doctors who talk openly about the lack of protective gear or questioning official infection scores.

A government press office declined to comment on the arrests of doctors and journalists but sent to the Associated Press a "defeating reality" claiming that the economy was recovering and struggling. Sissy’s success is terrorism.

Al-Sisi said the speed of the virus was "poised" and described the critics as "enemies of the state".

In recent weeks, authorities have cut medical supplies to prepare more patients. The Army set up 4,000 beds with area hospitals and isolation centers and provided free masks to citizens in metro stops, squares, and other public places.

The government has expanded inspections in all general hospitals and ordered private companies to tweak face masks and gear for front line health workers. L-CC ordered medical staff bonuses of $ 44- $ 76 per month.

But health workers are raising the alarm on social media. Doctors say the shortage has forced them to buy surgical masks with a small salary. Families are begging for intensive care beds. Dentists and pharmacists have complained of the forced treatment of suspected virus patients with poor training.

The epidemic propelled the non-political group, the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, into a new role as the country's only advocate for doctors' rights.

The union last month released a letter to the state attorney seeking to release five detained doctors to express their views on the reaction to the government's virus. A board member said more syndicate members were arrested than reported, but the families remained silent.

Following the arrest of board member and treasurer Mohammed al-Fawal last week, the low morale of doctors has diminished, with the prime minister demanding on Facebook that he apologize for the comments blamed by health workers for the rise in coronavirus deaths.

One of the many voice recordings obtained by The Associated Press, The Health Sub Worker in the Nihil Delta Province of Beheira, states that "even if a physician dies, he must continue to work ... or be subject to the most harsh punishment."

In another message to staff, the director of a hospital in the same province described those who failed to work as "traitors", saying "this is considered a matter of national security" ... and you know how Egypt goes into it. "

A doctor in Cairo shared a WhatsApp message with the AP from his manager, warning that employee attendance sheets were being monitored by state security. He said his two colleagues received a pay cut when managers found their complaints on social media. At two other hospitals in the capital, workers have withdrawn mass resignation letters over working conditions for fear of reprisals.

Analysts say suppressing criticism is not uncommon in Egypt, but the government has become increasingly irritated as the epidemic has tested its capabilities and slowed the economy.

Schools, mosques, restaurants, malls and clubs quickly closed down and curfew was imposed during the night, although L-CC opposed the entire lockdown due to economic impact.

With the closure of borders and the closure of cruise ships, Egypt's significant tourism revenue among other sources of income has disappeared. The country raised $ 5.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund in June over the previous $ 2.8 billion arrangement.

Last week, in fear of further economic downturn, the government reopened much of the community and welcomed hundreds of international tourists back to the resorts, with daily deaths reported to exceed 80. Restaurants and cafes are reopening with some persistent restrictions and veils are mandatory.

Amy Hawthorne, Egypt expert on the Middle East Democracy project, said, "In Egypt, the authorities are different because they are open to tourism, open to business, open to investment." Appears to be sensitive to attitude. "." They want to create a picture that fits all of them, they are in control. "

Egypt's top prosecutor warned this spring that those who spread "false news" online about coronaviruses could be jailed and fined up to five years.

At the end of March, the US Human Rights Commissioner raised concerns that 15 people had been arrested for spreading false news about the epidemic. One of the world's worst jailers, along with Turkey and China, has four Egyptian journalists in jail, according to the Defense Committee of Egypt's Journalists.

The security forces have also taken aggressive action against foreign journalists. In March, Egypt boycotted a reporter for The Guardian, citing a scientific report disputing the official virus count. The Egyptian state communications agency called on the Washington Post and New York Times reporters on their critical coverage during the epidemic.

Despite mounting human rights violations, the international community has pressed Egypt against regional instability, a Middle East-centric rights lawyer in the U.N. said on condition of anonymity to discuss policy matters.

“To address what is happening in Egypt, let the government accept whatever it is doing for its people,” the lawyer said.

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