The Egyptian army has declared the death of two major generals from COVID -19, but the official statement was too brief, simply mentioning that the two major generals were infected during the effort to fight the pandemic without any details about where and when it happened. The lack of information and transparency in the official statements has driven many to query the army’s narrative. Concern has been raised about conditions for officers and individuals in the army, whose numbers exceed 1 million.
The army’s narrative
The two dead officers are Major General Shafie Abdel Halim Dawoud and Major General Khaled Shaltout, the manager of the water administration of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority. It seems that their units had nothing to do with the efforts to fight COVID -19. Besides, it’s known that high-ranking officers don’t get involved in direct activities and their roles are limited to planning and following up on the implementation of their orders. Suspicions were circulated in press reports confirming that four senior military leaders have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 9, six days before the announcement of the participation of the armed forces in the efforts to fight COVID -19. A leaked document revealed that 11 soldiers were transferred to hospitals affiliated to the army between 5 and 10 of March on suspicion of being infected with COVID -19.
Al-Araby Al-Jadeed quoted from a special source that chief of staff of the Engineering Authority of the Egyptian Armed Forces, Major General Mahmoud Shahin, died in the Military Fever Hospital in Cairo last Monday of COVID -19. But there is an official silence within the army about his death. It has been decided that his death won’t be announced for fear of from generating controversy within the army, as he will be the third high ranking officer to die from COVID-19.
The same newspaper mentioned that Abbas Kamel, the head of General Intelligence who is close to the president, is in quarantine. Kamel has been suspected of being infected with COVID-19 after going to a meeting about the Renaissance Dam, which was attended by Khaled Shaltout. Major General Ehab Al-Far, the head of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, is also in quarantine along with some of his relatives and his secretary. Certainly, there is a massive crisis inside the armed forces because of many suspected cases among the senior officers. Al-Araby Al-Jadeed revealed that the infection is not because of the participation of those senior officers in the efforts to fight the virus, the reason is their meeting with a Chinese delegate from an executive company working at the New Administrative Capital. The meeting was earlier declared to be how the virus spread in Egypt. All people affiliated to the Armed Forces Engineering Authority who work in The New Administrative Capital have been subjected to medical check-up. This comes in line with reports that indicated the shutdown of all the activities of the Arab Contractors Company (one of the largest construction companies in the country) on all projects in The New Administrative Capital after 20 people tested positive for COVID-19 among the workers of Al-Zohour project, which is affiliated to the armed forces. Major General Ahmed Zaki Abdeen, chairman of The New Administrative Capital, stated that the workforce within all the projects decreased by 50 per cent to contain the virus.
Egypt’s army at risk
The Egyptian army receives one million enlistees annually, in addition to officers and non-commissioned officers. Thousands of them gather in the same training camps and units and live together in huge wards with adjoined toilets. Many of the soldiers work in hotels and shops which mean they are in contact with numerous people all the time. Enlistees told Egypt Watch that up until now no real precautions have been taken inside the military units, including medical check-ups. If senior army commanders can be infected with the virus so easily, then what about the hundreds of thousands of soldiers?