CAIRO (Al Jazeera) – Egypt’s medical union has blamed the government for the rise in coronavirus infections and deaths among healthcare professionals, warning of a ‘complete collapse’ of the country’s health system.
Citing growing frustration about a lack of protective equipment, testing and hospital beds for front-line doctors, the union described the Egyptian health ministry’s negligence as "a crime of killing by irresponsibility”.
The union reported 19 doctors have died and 350 contracted the virus, according to official figures, although testing of medical staff remains limited.
"The syndicate is warning that the health system could completely collapse, leading to a catastrophe affecting the entire country if the health ministry’s negligence and lack of action towards medical staff is not rectified,” the Egyptian Medical Syndicate (EMS) said in a statement.
"The EMS holds the health ministry entirely responsible for the mounting deaths and infections among doctors due to its negligence ... that is tantamount to death through a dereliction of duty.”
Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country, has officially recorded 17,967 infections and 783 fatalities due to COVID-19.
In an apparent response to the torrent of criticism, Health Minister Hala Zayed said the government was "following up to provide the best possible care” to medical staff.
Authorities have allocated 20-bed capacity floors at quarantine hospitals for staff who have fallen ill, she said, and provided "sufficient stocks” of protective gear.
The EMS statement came after 32-year-old doctor Walid Yehia died on Saturday after being unable to secure a bed in an isolation hospital.
Over Eid al-Fitr, the festival that concludes the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, authorities extended the nightly curfew and halted public transportation until May 29.
The prime minister has said the country would gradually reopen after the holiday.
In speeches and statements, the government has repeatedly reassured Egyptians it has the virus under control. But it has also tightened its grip on information about the pandemic.
Those who challenge the state’s official virus count have been expelled or detained.
The Egyptian government has resisted the kind of total lockdown seen in other countries in the region, hoping to stave off the worst economic repercussions.
But calls have grown for stricter measures as infections show no signs of abating.