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Rights groups call on Egypt to release prisoners to combat coronavirus

Egyptian prisoners [File photo]
Egyptian prisoners [File photo]

Four human rights groups yesterday calling on Egypt to release prisoners and take needed measures in order to avoid the spread of the coronavirus in prisons, Arabi21 reported.

In a statement, the rights groups said if the coronavirus was detected in Egypt’s prisons it would lead to a disaster due to how overcrowded the cells are.

The groups, including Adalah Institution for Human Rights, Al Shehab Centre for Human Rights, the International Organisation for the Protection of Human Rights and Human Rights Monitor, called on the Egyptian authorities to “immediately release the prisoners and detainees” and placed under house arrest and be issued with travel bans.

They added that international covenants dictate that “prisoners have the right to a healthy environment in prisons and permanent medical care, which is difficult to find in Egyptian prisons”.

“As a result,” they continued: “The high accumulation in prison cells and places of detention, as well as poor ventilation, and low levels of hygiene … may lead to a humanitarian disaster that is difficult to prevent, under these circumstances, if one case of this virus were to surface.”

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More than 3,800 people have died worldwide from the coronavirus and over 114,000 infections have been recorded, WHO said yesterday.

In the Middle East, Iran has been the worst hit by the virus with 354 people dead and 9,000 infected. The country’s authorities temporarily released about 70,000 prisoners to avoid the spread of the virus.

On Monday, Egypt announced recording four new coronavirus cases, raising the total number to those infected in the country to 59. On Sunday, a German tourist became the country’s first death from the virus.

Observers have consistently raised concerns about Egypt’s ability to confront the coronavirus, largely due to the country’s poor health care system.

Public healthcare in Egypt suffers from a lack of government funding, is marred by unsafe working conditions and staff shortages. A number of doctors have quit due to being paid poorly, which has left the industry at a shortage.

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