Corona and the Truth Don’t Mix in Egypt

Monday 16 March 202001:43 pm
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في مصر... الحقيقة والكورونا لا يجتمعان

Egypt officially has 126 Corona cases, including 7 cases in the school system, but the government says they are ahead of the disease and Sisi has not uttered a single word about the epidemic sweeping Egypt. As many countries struggle with an unfolding pandemic various strategies have been employed. Egypt’s principle strategy appears to be: lay low and lie big. Egypt's first case popped up on radar, ironically enough, on Valentine's Day, its second case would not be announced for another 16 days, on March 2nd. On a stormy day in Cairo, the Ministry of Health (MOH), announced the 80th case and the first Egyptian death , nearly 2 weeks later. When governance embraces minuscule fractions of the truth and eschews responsibility, you have a nation in trouble. What we have here is a dissolution of the contract between governor and governed written in the ink of lies and governmental irresponsibility.

Our story doesn't begin in Cairo or Alexandria, instead the American state of Ohio is the scene. Despite the fact that Donald Trump has sought to squelch coronavirus numbers to benefit his re-election this did not stop Amy Acton, Ohio's director of Health, from projecting a potential 100,000 positive cases in the state. Though a stunning number this health official put the people before the President, as she should. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of allergy and infectious diseases since 1984, took it a step further labeling the system as failing at testing for Corona. In a country of institutions lives come before votes and the political security of the elite. Even with the president undermining the federal effort to contain the virus and numbers mushrooming by the day, 3,800 as of March 15, the continued transparency of health professionals and a professional media ultimately will facilitate, rather than complicate, that fight.

Egypt insisted Patient Zero was a Taiwanese tourist. A lie. “It is determined that Case #39 contracted coronavirus in Egypt, and developed symptoms after returning to Taiwan and that this is an imported case said Taiwan officials.

In Egypt, the storyline is full of Yes Men, Yes Women, disorganized effort, ignorance, compounded by a lack of equipment and an invisible leader. From here our story shifts to the ignorance of a young inexperienced doctor, a story which unfolded on facebook messenger and was offloaded unto Egyptian Twitter.

“Doctor we have a case who came into the Emergency Room Positive for CMV and GVHD with a fever and we suspect it is Corona… what are the tests? Do we run a PCR test for example? Or should we wait till the case gets worse ?” The more senior doctor in Australia answers: “Excuse me but the hospital doesn't know which tests to run?” Crux of the issue is not that a young ER resident is incapable of diagnosing the disease, or that she does not know the proper tests. At the heart of the matter is the absence of clear guidelines provided for her and her colleagues, and that senior doctors on staff stand by while inexperienced doctors are left stranded on the front lines.

The problem doesn't end there however, the young resident lays out our worst suspicions: the government is hiding cases. “My colleagues tell me there are more cases at El Qsr El Ainy and the French hospital ( two of the biggest Cairo hospitals). Remember that the venerable New York Times expressed the fears of many Egyptians, Arabs and Westerners when it reported “Lack of public disclosures' ' in countries like “Egypt, probably masking larger outbreaks”. This young Doctor's tale is, likely, the tip of the iceberg on the submersion of the true extent of the outbreak in Egypt.

 But there is more. Efforts to suppress true numbers of the pandemic are such that doctors are being bullied not to wear masks  “because you will scare people unnecessarily”, senior staff tell them. In being in cahoots with a government looking to suppress the true nature of the Egypt’s epidemic the senior staff are endangering the lives of younger doctors tasked with saving Egyptian lives.

That young resident is not the only one undercutting government messaging about an international pandemic under control in Egypt. “The cases started over 6 weeks ago”,  an Egyptian epidemiologist at a well known university told Raseef22. “They were classified as severe respiratory ailments and pneumonia”, intentionally so and were primarily located in Cairo, Alexandria, with a sprinkling in Luxor, Hurghada, and Qena. Absorb this for a moment and then consider the following: that is one doctor telling one analyst, imagine how many more have tales tell. Just as with Virus projection logic, for every positive case you can project many more that are undocumented due to lack of testing. You can bet there are many other doctors with similar tales but only whispering so and not screaming. Because speaking in Egypt about such a sensitive topic is how people disappear for long periods of time- if they live.

But you can only hide so much in the internet age during a pandemic. At 2 a.m. New York time on Wednesday, March 10th, I received two videos of angry Egyptian nurses appearing to stand in demonstration in front of one of Egypt's leading viral disease centers. Fifteen hours later, truth was outed: the nurses’ claim that a colleague of theirs was infected and tested positive was confirmed by a government controlled newspaper: The Hospital Authority confirms a nurse at Imbaba Viral Center was infected with Corona. The video of the demonstration, where the nurses angrily declared “ we have all become Corona. We are infected” had forced the government’s hand.

At least 104 people who recently visited Egypt have tested positive upon returning home said the New York Times. 47 of those were Greek tourist, news reports indicate a similar number of Americans, largely linked to the ill fated A Sara Nile cruise ship

 Disjointed, and often arbitrary efforts to block out the truth are undermined by numerous stories of travelers returning to their countries having contracted the virus in Egypt. Egypt insisted Patient Zero was a Taiwanese tourist. A lie. “It is determined that Case #39 contracted coronavirus in Egypt, and developed symptoms after returning to Taiwan and that this is an imported case,” read the Taiwanese statement. Rather than the virus being imported to Egypt the country has become a very efficient exporter of the virus to many nations including France, Canada, Taiwan, the United States and and a Saudia Arabia hard hit by Egyptian cases. As of March 13th the total number of cases in Saudi Arabia was 86, out of those, Egyptians comprised the largest number by far: 48 . At least 104 people who recently visited Egypt have tested positive upon returning home said the New York Times. 47 of those were Greek tourists and news reports also indicate a similar number of Americans, largely linked to the ill fated A Sara Nile Cruise ship. The Washington Post did not mince words in saying the cruise ship had spawned an international outbreak . That cruise ship and medical disorganization delivered misery to Canada too as a Canadian tourist told a local paper. Suddenly “ boom, we can get off the ship,” and she was touring the temples, potentially infecting Egyptians with each passing hour of the next two days.

These facts and numbers all belie the slow rise in numbers in Egypt and an official footing suggesting the situation is under control. On average, in the past few days, the caseload has risen by a dozen cases a day hitting 126 on March 15th, including a highly distressing 7 cases in schools when the government bowed to public pressure. But the CDC said such moves are far too little and have virtually no impact, in fact, can help to infect the elderly at home by putting them in direct contact with infected children. Damage already done by the seven positives in such crowded environs as Egyptian schools by a highly infectious covid 19 is a development that, in its own right, could portend disaster.

Intentional systematic lies aimed, with a laser focus, at hiding the extent of the outbreak in Egypt rise are crimes against Egyptians and the international community by a heartless dictatorship intent on showing it is in control when the facts belie that.

A health system, both disorganized, in shambles and not equipped, even with a 6 billion Dollar budget injection to combat Covid 19, to battle a beast of this size and ferocity.

Lies kill and if the indications are correct the government may very well be telling big lies amplified by limited training, diagnosis and equipment.

If Egypt is to stand toe to toe with this monster transparency, moving forward, will be the key.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Raseef22

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