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Egypt delivers medical aid to Italy despite severe shortages at home

April 6, 2020 at 11:18 am

Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed, 1 April 2020 [arabnews]

Egypt’s health minister arrived in Italy on Saturday to deliver medical aid amid the coronavirus global pandemic.

Italy has recorded 128,948 infections so far with 15,887 deaths making it Europe’s worst-hit country.

Critics have spoken out against the move, the second in the course of several weeks, given Egypt’s own shortage of supplies in its battle against the disease.

Doctors have raised serious concerns in recent weeks about the lack of masks, disinfectant and protective clothing available to them in hospitals.

The cost of masks in Egypt have risen to 150 Egyptian pounds ($10), four per cent of the average income.

One social media user pointed out how the aid delivery could be tied to Egypt’s desire for continued trade with Italy, including its contract with the Italian oil giant Eni and the lucrative arms deals.

In 2018 trade between Egypt and Italy hit $7.2 billion and Egypt purchased $77 million worth of arms from the European country.

READ: 17 medics at Egypt’s cancer institute test positive for coronavirus

In February this year reports stated that Egypt and Italy were close to signing a $1.3 billion arms deal.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak Eni, which is worth around $6.4 billion, was developing the largest gas field in the Mediterranean off the coast of Egypt.

This was at the same time Italian student Giulio Regeni was tortured to death and dumped on the Cairo-Alexandria road on the 2016 anniversary of the January uprising.

Activists consistently called on the Italian government to hold Egypt to account for his murder, thought to have been carried out by members of one of the country’s top security agencies, and its failure to investigate it properly.

Rights groups refocused on the Egypt-Italy relationship in February this year after the north African country detained and tortured master’s student Patrick Zaki who was studying at the University of Bologna in northern Italy on a trip home.

Many believed Italy is using the political pressure placed on them to secure better arms deals and that Egypt was purchasing large amounts of arms to compensate for Regeni’s murder.

Timothy Kaldas of the Tahrir Institute has said the delivery of aid to Italy is a publicity stunt to soften public anger in Italy towards the Egyptian government.