In Egypt, the Coronavirus Poses a Political Threat

The pandemic has exposed the shortfalls of a government that has neglected the health sector for too long.

n March 16, Egypt had 126 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. By mid-April, that figure had reached 2,700. A week later, cases had grown by more than a third. While the outbreak is just beginning, Egypt’s fragile health care system is already struggling. So too is its population. A long-troubled economy and a government that has not prioritized spending on health services is adding tinder to the fire. Should the coronavirus continue its rapid spread, it is only a matter of time before the current health crisis explodes into a political one.

The steep increase in the number of coronavirus cases has underscored the dire shape of Egypt’s health care system. Some 5,000 cases have been confirmed and 359 people have died of the coronavirus as of April 28, though with so little testing the real figure is doubtless higher.

Throughout the country, there is a shortage of doctors, nurses, drugs, medical supplies, and beds, leaving the health care system ill equipped to manage a fast-moving and highly lethal pandemic. Low pay and bad working conditions have led many physicians to leave the country, including around 10,000 over the past three years alone. According to an estimate by Egypt’s Medical Syndicate, out of a total of 220,000 registered medical doctors, around 120,000 work outside Egypt. Public hospitals are understaffed by some 55,000 to 60,000 nurses. Egypt has 1.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared with around 13 in Japan, 8 in Germany, and 6 in France. Unsurprisingly, according to Arab Barometer, only 31 percent of Egyptians said they were satisfied with the overall performance of their government’s health care service in 2018-2019, a 19-point drop since 2010…

Read full article at Foreign Policy