The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, warned citizens yesterday about what he described as "false rumours aimed at betraying religion and the homeland." Speaking on Facebook, Allam called on all Egyptians "not to listen except to official sources and not to follow the rumours that aim to spread terror and destabilise national security."
The mufti's remarks came after the Guardian published research by Canadian specialists, which said that Egypt was "grappling with a higher rate of coronavirus infections than official figures" actually claim.
"Under the conservative estimate of Covid-2019 burden, where linked and ambiguous cases are eliminated, we estimated an outbreak size of 19,310 cases in Egypt," infectious disease specialists from the University of Toronto said. They added that Egypt has a "large burden of Covid-2019 cases that are unreported."
The study pointed out that at least 97 foreign nationals who have visited Egypt since mid-February "had shown symptoms or tested positive for Covid-19 on return home." They noted that most of those foreigners had spent time "on Nile cruises believed to be the source of the outbreak in the southern city of Luxor, a tourism hotspot."
On Monday, an official at Egypt's Ministry of Health denied the "completely false" claims, insisting that, "The ministry instantly confirmed cases of the virus in full transparency."
After emerging in China in December, the virus has infected nearly 200,000 people across 162 countries and territories, almost 8,000 of whom have died. Last week, the World Health Organisation classified the coronavirus as a pandemic. The vast majority of those who are infected recover from the illness.