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Where is Egypt's Minister of Health?

Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed gives a press conference, in a tent set up outside the Abou Khalifa hospital, in Ismailia, about 120kms east the capital Cairo, on January 24, 2021 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images]
Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed in Cairo, Egypt on 24 January 2021 [KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images]

Forty days ago, on 26 October, Egyptian Minister of Health Hala Zayed was transferred to a hospital affiliated with the General Intelligence Service to receive medical care after she fell ill following the arrest of her assistants on corruption charges.

Three days later, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced that Zayed requested sick leave. Accordingly, the PM issued a decision appointing the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research as acting Minister of Health.

Since then, Zayed has disappeared without any official disclosure of her condition, her relationship to the corruption case, or when she will return to work.

According to accounts published by local and Arab newspapers, the story began on Monday 25 October, when the Administrative Control Authority members raided the Ministry of Health building to interrogate and arrest senior officials.

Zayed was shocked, especially after officials presented her with accusations and evidence of the involvement of leaders close to her in the case. She subsequently fell ill and was transferred to the Nile Valley Hospital of the General Intelligence Service in the centre of Cairo.

READ: ICU across Egypt full of covid patients as winter approaches

No one knows who was involved in the case and what charges they would have been up against. Media sources indicated that the director of the minister's office and senior officials in the Free Treatment Department (which is concerned with issuing licenses for health facilities in Egypt) and others were accused of receiving bribes and embezzling funds.

On Wednesday 27 October, the Public Prosecution published a vague statement saying that it was "initiating investigations with officials in the Ministry of Health". It did not specify who is heading the probe but did affirm keenness on "the principles of transparency with society".

Coronavirus is affecting the whole world, will it unite us - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Coronavirus is affecting the whole world, will it unite us? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Forty days later, no new information has been forthcoming.

The minister of health was discharged from the hospital two days after being admitted, and official sources said that her health had improved and that she would be returning to work soon. Everyone was surprised by the prime minister's decision to appoint a charge d'affaires for the ministry.

Amr Adeb, the regime spokesperson, said Zayed would most likely not return to her post, denying at the same time the minister's involvement in the corruption case.

Zayed's strong relationship with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi can explain the secrecy surrounding this corruption case. Over the past few years, there have been many calls for her to be dismissed from office due to her failings, but Al-Sisi kept her on.

Now it seems it is protecting her from a probe, the details of which the public have not been informed.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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AfricaArticleCoronavirusEgyptOpinion
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