Coronavirus raises panic in Egypt’s prisons over regime inaction

Egyptian authorities have transferred three detainees suspected of being infected with coronavirus from Giza Central Prison to hospital after they showed clear symptoms of the virus. Egyptian authorities transferred them to the hospital after refusing to do so for days. Sources pointed out that the detainees asked the prison administration to act quickly after their temperature increased significantly, they developed a dry cough and symptoms of fever. The sources added that the prison administration refused to intervene at first and said that the detainees’ temperature was normal, although they had not taken it, according to The New Khalij website. After negotiations, the prison administration found that one of their temperatures had increased significantly. The prison administration said that it started communicating with the police station in which the prison is located to transfer the injured to hospital, but after a while, the prison administration informed the detainees that the police department refused to accept the request for them to be transferred. The sources confirmed that the prison administration in such cases communicates with National Security (formerly State Security), the decision-maker in approving or refusing to transfer the infected. After protests and chants from the detainees, sources said, the prison administration agreed to take the infected to hospital.

The Egyptian Front for Human Rights said, on Saturday, that a number of detainees in Tora Prison launched a partial hunger strike two days ago in protest against the prison administration’s procedures despite fears that the coronavirus infection would spread among the detainees. The Human Rights Front revealed that at least two prisoners were transferred two days ago from Tora Prison to a fever hospital, after they were suspected of being infected, and had the accompanying symptoms of a high temperature and a dry cough. These symptoms caused a wave of panic inside the prison, especially as they came along with the prevention of visits, and the failure of the Ministry of Interior to take any measures to sterilise prisons or provide detainees with personal hygiene tools, according to what the human rights organisations quoted from sources. Human Rights Front condemned the current conditions inside Egyptian prisons and expressed great fear for the lives of all detainees in Egypt, and held the authorities responsible for preserving their lives. It also stressed that the authorities’ insistence on ignoring the situation and the gravity of the epidemic, on keeping them in crowded places of detention despite the fact that many countries have released their prisoners, can only be described as premeditated killing.

The Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms, on March 15, transmitted the distress of detainees from inside the 430 Wadi el-Natroun Prison, noting that “cases of prison injuries have been discovered and there is no medical care to contain it.” Human Rights Watch published a report on March 16, , “Why does Egypt have to release prisoners who are unjustly held now?” in which it warned of the seriousness of conditions in Egyptian prisons in light of the outbreak of coronavirus. In November 2019, two UN experts said the abusive conditions of detention in Egypt “could seriously endanger the health and lives of thousands of prisoners.” Egypt has officially registered 656 cases including 41 deaths, and 132 recoveries. But these official numbers have been met with widespread suspicion by Canadian researchers who said that the real numbers exceeded thousands.