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Coronavirus: Cairo may become the next Wuhan, opposition group warns

Batel campaign says Egypt has been underreporting Covid-19 cases and not spending enough to combat the spread of the disease
Egypt has reported 17,000 cases of the coronavirus, however, Batel says the true figure is probably much higher (AFP/File photo)

An Egyptian opposition group has urged the World Health Organisation to monitor the country's fight against the coronavirus after it accused the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of underreporting the death toll.

The Batel campaign, which means "void" in Arabic, warned on Tuesday that if the country continues to mismanage the crisis, Cairo could become a "new Wuhan."

The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province, and has killed at least 350,000 people globally.

"Efforts must be immediately combined to support Egypt before it becomes the world's new Wuhan."

'Where does the regime spend these billions of dollars that are supposed to be spent on supporting medical personnel and fighting the outbreak of the virus'

- Batel, Egyptian opposition campaign

Batel also warned that the government was likely to misuse it's recent $2.7 billion IMF emergency pandemic aid, which was recently criticised by a former investment minister and opponent of the Sisi government.

"Where does the regime spend these billions of dollars that are supposed to be spent on supporting medical personnel and fighting the outbreak of the virus?" the group said in its letter.

"Why do some international organisations still cover the regime up, and for whose interest?"

So far, Egypt, which has a population of 100 million, has reported only 17,000 cases of the coronvirus. However, Batel, which been monitoring the crisis, said the true figure was probably much higher.

"Unfortunately, the figures up to date show that Covid-19 infections and deaths are much more than the official figures announced by the regime in Egypt."

Underreporting and a lack of PPE

In March, Cairo forced a journalist from The Guardian to leave the country after she reported on a scientific study that argued the actual figure for coronavirus cases were far higher than authorities were reporting.

Sisi's government has also criticised news outlets including the New York Times and the Washington Post, accusing the newspapers of covering the situation "unprofessionally".

In addition to underreporting cases, doctors and healthcare workers have also complained of a lack in personal protective equipment (PPE) when treating Covid-19 patients.

Tens of Egyptian doctors at Al-Munira General Hospital in Cairo published a mass resignation letter on Facebook this week, protesting a lack of PPE and quarantine measures.

"The Egyptian people are not the only ones that will pay the price; but in fact, the whole world will," Batel said in its letter.