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The New Arab Staff

Neglected Egypt health system threatens humanitarian catastrophe in North Sinai due to coronavirus spread

An Egyptian teacher and his students wave from a school in South Sinai governorate [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 11 June, 2020

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A number of healthcare workers in the restive Sinai Peninsula have called on the Egyptian government to provide more medical equipment.
The health system in Egypt's North Sinai Governorate will not be able to cope with an increase in coronavirus cases, medical staff have warned.

A number of healthcare workers in the restive peninsula have called on the Egyptian government to provide the necessary medical equipment needed to tackle a Covid-19 outbreak, as the number of cases continue to climb, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

A health official source in the governorate told The New Arab that "the novel coronavirus is still under control in North Sinai".

But the same source added that "the medical system in North Sinai lacks the equipment for coronavirus testing, as it is not available in any hospital within the governorate's borders".

"This forces the directorate to transfer samples to health laboratories in Ismailia and wait for the test results. During that period, the tested person remains under medical isolation in one of two hospitals (Al-Arish or Bir al-Abed) until they receive their test result," the source said.

The source pointed to "a shortage of medical supplies such as protective clothing for medical personnel, in addition to there not being specialised training for medical workers to deal with suspected coronavirus cases".

Medical sources at Al-Areesh General Hospital confirmed to The New Arab the death of two Egyptian citizens last Monday of suspected coronavirus.

The same sources said there were eight new suspected cases last Sunday, the largest number since the beginning of the pandemic.

Two people had died before a coronavirus test could be carried out, the delay due to samples needing to be transferred to laboratories in Ismailia, the sources said.

The North Sinai governorate in eastern Egypt was the last region in Egypt to register a case of coronavirus.
The North Sinai is under a tight military blockade that has long prevented independent observers, journalists and non-residents from entering the province.

Egypt's North Sinai is home to the country's Islamic Statee group affiliate, Wilayat Sinai, and other extremist militants who have engaged in a bloody insurgency against the state since 2011.

When local militants intensified their attacks after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's rise to power in a 2013 coup, the regime escalated its counter-insurgency in a scorched earth campaign. It has seen Egypt accused of "serious and widespread abuses" against civilians.

Read more: Coronavirus free, Egyptians in North Sinai see military blockade as a blessing for first time

Egypt's imposition of a mandatory "self-isolation" on the North Sinai governorate was viewed by some residents as a roundabout "blessing", blocking coronavirus from reaching the province.

But sources at the time warned that if coronavirus were to reach the province, the health infrastructure, which has been neglected and underfunded, would be particularly vulnerable.

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