Fearful Egyptian villagers disrupt burial of coronavirus victim in local cemetery
Residents of the village had surrounded the ambulance transporting the doctor's body and attempted to stop it entering the village's cemetery, out of fear of being infected with the Covid-19 virus.
The doctor, identified by Egyptian media only by her initials S.A.A., was initially to be buried in the nearby village of Mit Amil, where she was born, in accordance with her wishes. However, residents of that village also tried to forcibly prevent her burial and security forces arrested 15 of them for "inciting disturbances".
Her body was then taken to Shubra al-Bahu, which is her husband’s home village, for burial, but residents of the village also refused to accept her body for burial.
Security forces and medical authorities tried to negotiate with the residents of the village, but were met with hostility by the residents, who feared contracting coronavirus from the doctor's body.
The Egyptian news website Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted a local eyewitness as saying that the head of the local health authority offered to bury the doctor’s body himself in a burial plot owned by the doctor's husband was still refused.
The doctor was finally buried after the residents were dispersed by tear gas fired by the security forces.
Al-Masry Al-Youm also reported that the doctor was infected by her daughter, who had caught coronavirus on a trip to Scotland before returning to Egypt on March 11 and infecting her mother. The doctor was placed in quarantine on March 14.
Prior to burial, her body was sterilised and wrapped in three layers of cloth and leather to forestall any possibility of infection but this did not assuage the residents' fears.
At least 135 people, including three doctors, have died of coronavirus in Egypt and a total of 1,794 people have been infected according to official figures. There have been claims, however, that the actual infection rate is much higher than the official figure.
Last week, 15 doctors at Cairo's main cancer centre were infected with the virus.
Coronavirus has caused a great deal of fear in Egypt. A similar episode of mass panic took place in the village of Bolis near Alexandria when security forces had to intervene to allow the burial of a woman who died from the virus.