Egypt minister accuses Muslim Brotherhood of hatching coronavirus plot against military
In an official statement published on the ministry's website on Wednesday, Mohammad Mukhtar Juma called the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood "mentally disturbed" and “a threat to the whole world".
He went on to say that "criminal elements" within the group were seeking to spread COVID-19 among members of the state and general public.
"Some members of the group who are infected with coronavirus have been told to spread it among the army, police, judiciary, media and other innocent members of the community," he said.
Juma originally made the remarks in parliament, where it attracted support from fellow MPs.
Naturally, Mukhtar's allegations prompted a widespread backlash among Egyptians, who accused the ruling regime of blaming all of the country's problems on the Islamist group, who briefly held power in the country before being ousted in a coup led by current President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.
Critics joked that everything from increases in the price of food, to drain blockages, to the defeat of the national football team, has been blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood.
However, the accusation could be traced to a video from exiled Brotherhood member Bahgat Ali, in which he encouraged anyone with flu symptoms to shake hands with members of the security forces, judiciary and media to force the government to publicly recognise the true extent of the disease in the country.
Egypt's health ministry on Wednesday confirmed seven new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 67.
On Sunday, the country's first coronavirus fatality was registered after a German tourist died.
Egyptian authorities have been tight-lipped about the virus outbreak, and warned citizens not to speculate. In the wider Middle East region, cases have surged to over 10,000.
A string of infections on Nile cruise boats as well as American holidaymakers returning from Egypt hint to a potentially bigger outbreak than current figures show.
Since the Sisi-led coup, the Egyptian regime has launched a blanket crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, banning them from operating and arresting any suspected members.