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Activists: Egypt’s plans to tackle coronavirus laughable 

Citizens wear masks to defend against new viruses on 22 January 2020 in Guangzhou, China. [Stringer - Anadolu Agency]
Citizens wear masks to defend against new viruses on 22 January 2020 in Guangzhou, China [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

Egyptian Minister of Health Hala Zayed has stoked the ridicule of activists by declaring that Egypt is ready to confront the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health and Population of Egypt announced the launch of massive campaigns against Chinese restaurants in Egypt, justifying the move as a means of ensuring the safety of Egyptian food, in conjunction with the spread of the new virus.

Governors were tasked with imposing strict controls on Chinese restaurants, in order to prevent the epidemic leaking into the country.

Zayed stressed the need to ensure the safety of those who frequent restaurants, noting that the campaigns have covered seven provinces so far, with all workers being fully inspected and having their health certificates checked. Chinese workers would be reviewed to identify suspects with symptoms of the coronavirus.

The decision sparked widespread ridicule in the country because Chinese restaurants in Egypt are restaurants that serve Chinese dishes, but all ingredients come from Egypt. Their employees and chefs are Egyptians, trained in Chinese cooking methods.

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Activists have mocked the campaign saying Chinese workers in these restaurants were either present in Egypt before the outbreak of the virus in China or had arrived and been examined at the airport already.

Doctors, nurses and medical staff also had their vacations cancelled, no explanation was given for this given Egypt ha said no case of the coronavirus had been detected to date, perhaps, critics joked, the health minister hopes the presence of the doctors will scare the virus and stop it entering Egypt. Egyptians wondered if the ministry had no other way to cancel the holidays and summon doctors if an emergency broke out and therefore decided to cancel their vacations to keep them in hospitals.

One of the doctors who rejected the minister’s decision said that it would have been better if the ministry had trained doctors in methods of coping with the virus and started trying to produce vaccines.

Doctor Abdel Rahman Muhammad added that cancelling the doctors’ vacations is not a preventive measure against the virus, because they do not know how to deal with it – “the doctors themselves will be the first to be infected with the virus.”

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Public hospitals, locals have warned, have not made sufficient preparations to counterthe spread of viruses. The World Health Organisation yesterday declared the coronavirus outbreak a public-health emergency of international concern.

This article first appeared in Egypt Watch on 30 January 2020

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