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Egypt's failure to pay $128mn debt to medical manufacturers led to oxygen crisis

An Egyptian man who recovered from Covid-19 donates blood at a hospital in Cairo, Egypt on 22 July 2020 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Egyptian man who recovered from Covid-19 donates blood at a hospital in Cairo, Egypt on 22 July 2020 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

A source in the Federation of Industries has told Al-Manassa that Egypt's hospital oxygen crisis is due to the government's failure to pay its EGP 2 billion ($128 million) debt for medical supplies as coronavirus cases soar in the country.

This is despite the fact that last year the IMF approved a $2.2 billion loan to Egypt after it requested emergency financial assistance to contend with complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the anonymous source, there are 53 companies currently manufacturing oxygen and medical devices at the request of Egypt.

Some of the companies are refusing to supply anything else until they are paid, whilst some have continued given the urgency of the situation, the source said.

Some of them are afraid to discontinue the supply in case they are blacklisted and not used again in the future.

The news comes despite the Finance Minister Mohamed Maait's order to the government to pay half of the debt immediately and the other half in June.

The first half of the payment is yet to be received by the companies.

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The oxygen crisis has steadily worsened in Egypt's hospitals, with citizens reporting that they are buying and storing their own oxygen cylinders.

Since the start of the pandemic Egypt's doctors have warned about the severe shortage of urgent medical supplies, including oxygen.

The crisis reached its peak earlier this month when an entire ICU isolation ward died after the amount of oxygen, and the pressure, dipped too low.

Egypt's health minister attempted to cover it up by blaming the Muslim Brotherhood for spreading rumours, but a widely shared video taken by one of the patients' family members went viral and caused an uproar in the country.

Zayed later admitted there was an oxygen crisis in hospitals and that she would endeavour to put in place a digital system so that medics could check oxygen levels around the clock.

She also announced that there is now an abundant supply of oxygen, but Al-Manassa refutes that, reporting that there is actually still a shortage and an oxygen crisis.

Zayed she went on to ban smart phones on hospital wards and hospital administrators began confiscating mobiles from patients when they are admitted until when they are discharged.

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