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July 7, 2020

Egypt arrests doctors, silences critics over virus outbreak

Top Story

July 7, 2020

CAIRO: A doctor arrested after writing an article about Egypt’s fragile health system. As Egyptian authorities fight the swelling coronavirus outbreak, security agencies have tried to stifle criticism about the handling of the health crisis by the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, reported foreign media.

At least 10 doctors and six journalists have been arrested since the virus firsthit Egypt in February, according to rights groups. Other health workers say they have been warned by administrators to keep quiet or face punishment. One foreign correspondent has fled the country, fearing arrest, and another two have been summoned for reprimand over “professional violations.”

Coronavirus infections are surging in the country of 100 million, threatening to overwhelm hospitals. As of Monday, the Health Ministry had recorded 76,253 infections, including 3,343 deaths — the highest death toll in the Arab world.

“Every day I go to work, I sacrifice myself and my whole family,” said a front-line doctor in greater Cairo, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, like all doctors interviewed for this story. “Then they arrest my colleagues to send us a message. I see no light on the horizon.”

Now the clampdown has extended to doctors who speak publicly about missing protective gear or question the official infection count. A government press officer did not respond to requests for comment on the arrests of doctors and journalists but did send news agency a document entitled “Realities defeating evil falsehoods,” which details what it says are el-Sissi’s successes in improving the economy and fighting terrorism. El-Sissi has said the virus’s trajectory was “reassuring” and described critics as “enemies of the state.”