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Egypt shuts Guardian office over ‘offensive’ coronavirus report 

March 18, 2020 at 11:03 am

In this photo illustration a man reads a copy of The Guardian newspaper on 12 September, 2005 in London, England [Scott Barbour/Getty Images]

Egyptian authorities yesterday shut down the local office of the Guardian newspaper after the British agency released a report which said that the number of coronavirus cases in the country were higher than official figures indicated.

The State Information Services (SIS) said on Twitter that the government had also sent another warning to the local correspondent of the New York Times over what it described as a “professional violation”. Egyptian was also reported to have revoked the Guardian correspondent’s license over what is said to be “repeated and deliberate offensive behaviour”.

“The two newspapers did not adhere to the professional regulations of Journalism in what they had reported on the Coronavirus subject in Egypt,” the SIS tweet noted, adding that the agencies had relied on “unreliable sources, instead of seeking the official reliable sources.”

READ: Egypt reports two coronavirus deaths, total cases reach 196

Authorities called on the British newspaper to publish an official apology for what it called a “misleading report”. It also sent an official warning to the New York Times’ Cairo bureau chief, Declan Walsh, on the same matter.

On Sunday, the Guardian reported that Egypt was “grappling with a higher rate of coronavirus infections than official figures,” quoting a recently-released research by Canadian disease specialists. The researchers pointed out they had based their research on a mix of flight data, traveller data and infection rates.

“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, adding that Egypt had a “large burden of Covid-2019 cases that are unreported.”

The study added that at least 97 foreign nationals who visited Egypt since mid-February “had shown symptoms or tested positive for Covid-19 on return home,” noting 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.”

An official at the Egyptian health ministry denied the newspapers’ accusations on Monday, describing the information as “completely false”. “The ministry instantly confirmed cases of the novel virus in full transparency,” the official stressed.