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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Egyptian government denies 'oxygen crisis' in coronavirus wards despite video 'proof'

The country my have a severe oxygen shortage in hospitals [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 January, 2021

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Videos have emerged showing an alleged oxygen shortage in Egypt's hospitals.
Egypt has denied that it is suffering an 'oxygen crisis' in hospitals after videos emerged on social media allegedly showing people dying due to a lack of medical oxygen amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Family members who filmed inside Hussainiya Hospital show beds filled with dead bodies. In two other videos relatives of sick people are shown to blame the hospital for a lack of breathable medical oxygen.

The government denies that there is a problem and has blamed the hospital over its lack of security in allowing family members to film in the facilities.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that one of the main consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is respiratory issues, prompting a global need for medical oxygen.

"It has been estimated that around one in five people with Covid-19 suffers respiratory distress sufficient to require oxygen therapy," says Dr Priyanka Relan, a Covid-19 clinical management expert at WHO.

"Without that therapy, Covid-19 can be fatal."

However, in a report written earlier this year, WHO said that oxygen access is "problematic worldwide".

Egypt has scrambled to deny the deaths were related to the oxygen shortage, and the governor of Sharqiyah, Mamdouh Gharab said the four deaths at Hussainiya were due to Covid-19 complications.

However, MP-elect of Sharqiyah Sayed Rahmo claimed five people died due to staff negligence and mismanagement of oxygen supplies, prompting a public inquiry.

"The main problem is that there's a lack of trust in what the government says, which is the real issue," said Ayman Sabae, head of the healthcare startup Shamseya to The Guardian.

"When the health ministry says it wasn't an oxygen problem, people doubt this for many reasons. These things occurred in hospitals run by the ministry of health, which is also carrying out an investigation [into the deaths]. Then there are conflicting messages: On one hand, the government is saying there's no shortage of the supply of oxygen, then you see civil society organisations collecting funds and donating oxygen tanks."

Probe into deaths

Earlier this month, Egypt said it had opened an investigation into the deaths of four Covid-19 patients in an intensive care unit allegedly due to lack of oxygen, which had sparked a public outcry.

"The prosecutor's office in Al-Husseiniya (in the northern Sharqiya province) summoned the director of Al-Husseiniya Hospital to question him over the deaths of four people due to lack of oxygen," a judicial source told AFP, without specifying the dates of the deaths.

Numerous social media users had shared a video of patients in a hospital ward, with a voice heard saying "everyone is dead in intensive care".

The prosecutor's office confirmed the video was of Al-Husseiniya Hospital, which was also identified in comments on social media.

The 45-second video also shows hospital staff apparently trying to revive patients.

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country with around 100 million inhabitants, has reported more than 150,000 cases of the Covid-19 disease, including 8,249 deaths.

Authorities acknowledge, however, that the real number of cases is higher, as only positive tests from health ministry labs have been reported.

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