• Arwa Hanin Elrayess

Why Countries Are Concealing Their Corona-Cases

Egypt's health ministry reported its first confirmed case of the coronavirus on the 14 of February.

The infected person was a foreign national, who, as of today, has ‘fully recovered and no longer carries the illness.’

Since then, Egypt has insisted on there being only 2 cases, raising the number to 55 yesterday morning, and claiming that the issue is being dealt with confidently and with the utmost transparency.

This news comes as a pleasant surprise, considering the well-known flaws of the Egyptian health system, their incredibly high population density, and the lack of medical facilities offered to the large majority.

Except, in the past week, at least 26 tourists have tested positive for the virus after returning from vacation in Egypt, and videos have begun to emerge online, ‘exposing’ Egyptian hospital wards, filled with patients showing corona-like symptoms.

The claims made in the video are yet to be confirmed by any governmental or health officials, so, we cannot be certain of the actual number of cases or the extent of the outbreak.

Nonetheless, this, coupled with the fact that most Egyptian news sources are underneath the government’s thumb, has sparked skepticism about the true severity of the virus in Egypt, and Health Minister’s supposed ‘transparency’ on the issue.

Additionally, considering the Egyptian government’s history of concealing matters that may reflect badly on them, we should all suspect that something is being kept from the public.

But this virus is nothing to be ashamed of. The best, most developed countries, have announced tens or hundreds of cases and have spoken openly about their mistakes.

No country or government is being blamed or criticized, on the contrary, World organizations are attempting to aid and support those who are being hit the hardest.

So, what reasons do the Egyptian government have to conceal or under-report information on this disease?

Although I cannot speak on behalf of the Egyptian government, in this article, I will attempt to highlight citizens’ most popular and believable explanations as to why something like this may be happening.

Unfortunately, despite what the government attempts to advertise, death and disease are not uncommon in Egypt.

Their public healthcare suffers from a major lack of governmental funding whilst a large percentage of their population are either too poor or too uneducated, to react to life-threatening situations appropriately.

This has left them with an average death rate of more than 1700 citizens a day, a third of their population living below the poverty line, and a prevalence of multiple life-threatening diseases such as Hepatitis C and the Avian Influenza.

Poor health, disease, and poverty have become the ‘norm’ for a large percentage of Egyptian civilians and their issues have been swept under a rug.

Yet, we rarely hear of these facts.

On the contrary, Egyptian tourism is booming.

Perhaps, with the spread of this disease, the Egyptian government thought it could hide or downplay the actual number of cases, similar to how they’ve denied or talked down countless other disasters in the country, in order to maintain their touristic industry.

It is possible that they have allowed the virus to progress because the fatality rate is relatively small in comparison to all their other diseases, and the panic would not be justified.

By raising the alarm on something that is globally feared to this extent, Egypt would cripple their heavily-relied-on touristic industry, which contributed to the GDP in Egypt by more than 528.7 billion EGP in 2018.

Crushing this major source of income, especially at its peak season, would be nothing short of catastrophic to Egypt's already unstable and struggling economy.

This may explain the Egyptian Minister of Health’s statement, asserting that ‘the tourism sector in Egypt is safe,’ and that the population, and foreigners alike, have ‘nothing to fear.’

Additionally, in another attempt to further trivialize the issue, the Health Minister advised patients to stay home since ‘82 % of coronavirus cases will not need to be treated in hospital.’

Obviously, this sparked anger amongst many who fear that the virus is already out of control in the country and that this advice was ill-considered.

If these assumptions turn out to be true, then we should all be concerned.

Pandemics are not national-level disasters and should not be treated that way.

A disease that spreads at this rate and captures the attention of billions around the world cannot be hidden, at least not for long.

Tourists who still chose to visit the famous Egyptian landmarks will, inevitably, come in contact with infected locals, especially if the outbreak becomes too widespread, leading to further worldwide infections.

Which is exactly what we are seeing today.

If anything, the government’s postponement of this news has likely given the virus a chance to develop more severe qualities, and to become more threatening to the rest of the World.

Egypt is a ticking bomb, and we are doing nothing to disarm it.

Unfortunately, it is very possible that other nations have adopted similar mentalities.

Countries that rely heavily on tourism or those that make a large profit from ex-pat workers are likely to hide their actual number of cases, as to not cripple these industries.

This is especially true for less-developed nations who cannot provide advanced medical care to their large, poverty-stricken population.

Luckily, many nations are beginning to suspect dishonesty from certain nations. For example, Qatar has banned passengers from 14 different countries, despite many of those countries announcing only 1 or 2 cases.

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