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Coronavirus: Two Egyptian generals die amid fears of undisclosed infections in army

A third high-ranking officer, Mahmoud Shahin, who recently met with the two deceased officers, has also tested positive for Covid-19
Major General Shafea Dawoud (L) and Major General Khaled Shaltout have died from Covid-19 (Facebook)

Two senior members of the Egyptian armed forces have died after being infected with the novel coronavirus, according to an army statement, as the country grapples with a daily rise in new cases.

According to a statement cited by pro-government media, Major General Shafea Abdel Halim Dawoud died from Covid-19 on Monday and Major General Khaled Shaltout died from the disease on Sunday “while taking part in efforts to contain the outbreak”.

The Egyptian armed forces had not previously released a statement about the two generals being infected with the virus.

Dawoud had served as the head of the mega projects department at the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, while Shaltout was the head of the water projects department in the same authority. 

A report by the Egyptian organisation We Record, published 10 days ago and cited by Middle East Eye last week, had demanded that Egyptian authorities reveal details of Covid-19 infections within the Engineering Authority, after receiving credible information that Dawoud, along with two others, had tested positive for the virus. 

The report said that it had been informed by insiders since 10 March that Dawoud, his driver and three senior officers had tested positive for Covid-19.

We Record also said on 13 March that Dawoud had shown symptoms of a fever during a meeting with Shaltout and the chairman of the Engineering Authority, Major General Mahmoud Shahin. 

Shahin has also tested positive for the virus, according to a member of the organisation, who refused to be named for security reasons. 

'Full transparency'

All employees at the departments where Dawoud and Shaltouth worked have been ordered to carry out tests at a military facility, the member of the organisation told MEE.

“We are not attacking Egyptian authorities, but our goal is to safeguard Egyptians, civilians and members of the army,” the organisation, which documents human rights abuses in the Middle East, said in a statement. 

“Transparency and the timely announcement of confirmed cases could help to contain the spread of the virus.”

The officers’ cases, according to the organisation, is possibly not limited to them, but it might have affected their colleagues and family members, and anyone who came into contact with them.

'The later the diagnosis is announced, the higher the risk that it expands to more people'

- spokesperson, We Record

“The later the diagnosis is announced, the higher the risk that it expands to more people,” it added. 

The reports of deaths in the armed forces come after President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the supreme commander of the armed forces, defended his government’s efforts to deal with the virus. 

On Saturday, Sisi said in a televised speech, his first since the beginning of the outbreak in February, that his government had dealt with the coronavirus pandemic with “full transparency”, denying that the true infection rate is much higher than official figures.

He also added that his government had allocated 100bn Egyptian pounds ($6.4bn) to fund a state plan to confront the crisis. 

The country’s health ministry has so far reported 327 cases of Covid-19 and 14 deaths. 

But infectious disease specialists at the University of Toronto believe the number of infections in Egypt is likely to be much higher than the official figures.