Egypt urged to release hundreds of imprisoned doctors and nurses to fight coronavirus epidemic
Nurses and doctors are among at least 438 prisoners whose detention have been documented on an interactive map by human rights monitoring group We Record.
Egypt lacks the adequate staff numbers and equipment levels needed to deal with the coronavirus crisis effectively, healthcare workers have said. Despite this, hundreds of medical practitioners are languishing in the country's notorious jails.
"Despite an acute shortage of medical teams and the ministry of health requesting volunteers to confront the novel coronavirus, the Egyptian authorities are holding 438 people, including doctors, nurses and others, according to our preliminary figures," We Record said in a statement.
A number of doctors in Egyptian prisons have appealed to authorities for their temporary release to support their colleagues in their battle against the novel coronavirus. They also pledged not to demand any material compensation for their efforts, and to return to prisons once the crisis ends.
"We assure Egyptians that our humanitarian message is the main motive for demanding release... We are the imprisoned doctors," the doctors said in a letter.
"We put all our scientific and practical capabilities and expertise in dealing with crises under the command of the Egyptian Ministry of Health. We hope to be next to our colleagues in their struggle to save the entire Egyptian people at this difficult time. "
The wife of prominent jailed Muslim Brotherhood figure, Mohammed Al-Beltagy, added her voice to the calls demanding the release of political prisoners to help in the medical effort.
Sanaa Abdel-Gawad, Al-Beltagy's wife, wrote on her Facebook page that authorities are depriving imprisoned Egyptians from playing their part in battling the deadly virus.
As the Covid-19 pandemic overwhelms hospitals around the world, Egypt's health sector, which is reportedly underfunded, is no exception.
Egypt witnessed dozens of health workers testing positive for Covid-19 this month alone.
Last week, Egyptian authorities closed Sadr Dikirnis Hospital in the Dakahlia Governate for three days after dozens of doctors, nurses and radiologists tested positive for Covid-19.
Earlier this month, three doctors and 12 nurses at Egypt's main cancer hospital were quarantined after testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
To help Egypt's coronavirus efforts, charities have urged the public to donate towards the health sector, but critics say this is evidence that Egypt's public hospitals lack the government funding needed to tackle the crisis.
Medical professionals have also sounded the alarm about alleged corruption and financial mismanagement within the country's healthcare sector affecting doctors' abilities to work effectively.
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