Egypt pro-Sisi media launch revenge campaign against doctors after coronavirus complaints

Egypt pro-Sisi media launch revenge campaign against doctors after coronavirus complaints
3 min read
27 May, 2020
Pro-Sisi media have launched a campaign of incitement against doctors, including death threats.
Egypt's doctors have been dangerously exposed to the coronavirus [Getty]

Egypt's pro-regime media have launched a campaign against doctors fighting Covid-19, after the country's largest medical union published a strongly-worded statement this week accusing the health ministry of "negligence", resulting in the deaths of medics from coronavirus.

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate (EMS) on Monday warned that "the health system could completely collapse, leading to a catastrophe affecting the entire country", as a result of the government’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, four doctors died from coronavirus without any treatment. By contrast Egyptian singer Amr Diab and actress Ragaa Al-Gadawi received immediate medical care when the suspected they had the virus.

Many doctors have resigned or gone on strike to protest the government negligence they are suffering from and unsafe working conditions, after some were forced to treat Covid-19 patients without personal protective equipment.

As a result pro-Sisi social media, as well as members of Egypt’s rubber-stamp parliament, have made incendiary accusations against doctors and called on people to boycott them.

The Arabic news website Arabi 21 reported that threats had been made on social media to kill any doctor who went on strike.

Egyptian MP Farag Amer said accused the Muslim Brotherhood of plotting to turn doctors against the state and forcing them to resign.

Comment: Sisi uses coronavirus to enshrine new powers at the expense of his people

On social media, pro-Sisi Twitter users accused the doctors of "treason" and said that Egyptians could obtain free medical advise and know-how from online sources such as YouTube and Wikipedia if medics strike.

"We don't need doctors for anything. All illnesses and their cures are written about on Wikipedia. We can even watch videos on YouTube and do operations for each other," one user said.

This led the official Twitter account of Wikipedia Arabic to warn social media users that "Wikipedia is not a doctor".

"[We offer] only general information and cannot be a substitute for specialist medical advice," it read.

As part of the incitement against doctors, an official from the government’s health ministry went on television to blame doctors at the Munira Hospital in Cairo for the death of one of their colleagues, Walid Yahya.

On Twitter, the head of the Sanofi Healthcare Company, Nebal Dahbeh, castigated doctors for protesting against the deaths of their colleagues, comparing them unfavourably with the Egyptian army.

"Have you ever heard of someone from the army avoiding martyrdom, or saying, I'm not playing because people are dying? What do you mean you’re protesting?"

At least 19 doctors have died as a result of coronavirus and more than 350 are thought to have been infected.

Despite the shortage of PPE - to protect doctors - and the neglect of their healthcare, Sisi's autocratic government has provided coronavirus equipment to countries such as Italy and the US as part of its "soft power" diplomatic initiative.

Even before this campaign against the doctors, the Egyptian government has been brutal in its treatment of those who have questioned its response to the coronavirus pandemic and questioned the official number of cases.

Ten journalists have been arrested since the coronavirus was first detected in the country, according to the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, who accused the regime of taking advantage of the pandemic to accelerate a long-running campaign against dissent.

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