Workers escape quarantined villages in Egypt to work

Tawfik Ahmed easily managed to climb one of the sides of the ring road (the highway surrounding Cairo) to take a taxi to exit his village al-Moatamadeyah, west of Cairo. No one stopped him, and no one measured his temperature, or made sure that he was not infected with coronavirus although Egyptian authorities announced that it imposed a quarantine on the village a few days ago. During the past week, the Egyptian authorities repeatedly announced the isolation of an unspecified number of villages in many provinces and imposed a quarantine on them, after a number of infections were discovered.

Among those villages is al-Moatamadeyah, which has been confirmed as having at least 10 cases of coronavirus, along with a number of suspected cases. Tawfik told Egypt Watch that a few days ago residents were surprised when police armoured vehicles arrived and announced they were imposing a quarantine there after discovering a number of corona cases. “At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to leave my home, I wouldn’t be able to go to work in Cairo, and I was worried about how I could get food when I was forbidden to leave my house,” said Tawfik. “But on the first morning, I knew everything from my neighbours, life seemed normal on the streets, everyone got out their homes normally, but the police armoured vehicles prevented the entry and exit of cars, while people can get out and enter on foot, and this is what I do every day to go to work.” “Instead of taking a bus or taxi in front of my home, I walk every day to get out of the village, then ride anything to go to work,” Tawfik said.

Tawfik justifies his lack of fear of transmitting or catching the infection, saying: “If the people of the village of al-Moatamadeyah are all infected, including me, then I am not the only one who leaves the village, everyone does so, almost all the village residents work in Cairo, meaning that I will not be responsible for transmitting coronavirus to the rest of Cairo.”

Al-Moatamadeyah has practically turned from a village into a Cairo neighborhood after its residents became civil servants or work for private sector companies rather than as farmers. He pointed to one of the sides of the ring road: “Here was a ladder that people used to use to go up and down the road. After the imposition of the quarantine, the police forces came and demolished part of it as you can see, this made it more difficult for the elderly and women, but for young people, there is no problem.” He continued: “If I do not go out of my house, I will starve to death, this is for sure, but if I go out, I may get sick and get infected with coronavirus, and there is a possibility that I will die… [but] this is not certain.” But he is clearly concerned at the same time, saying: “Of course I am afraid of infection with coronavirus and afraid of transmitting that infection to the people of my home, but at the same time I must feed them.”

Among these villages near Cairo under quarantine, most of the residents work inside Cairo, including in the village of Bahtim. Bahtim has also been turned into a Cairo neighbourhood, and was quarantined after the death of three people and infection of 33 others, including 22 infected who were isolated in their homes, and 10 cases at least being held in Bahtim Central Hospital.

Al-Moatamadeyah and Bahtim are considered densely populated areas. Egyptian websites say that their population is estimated at tens of thousands.

Observers warn that the lack of seriousness in isolating the villages where coronavirus has spread means tacitly allowing the virus to spread elsewhere. Observers point out that some of these villages that are infected by the virus are on the outskirts of the capital, which has a population of approximately 10 million people, which means putting 10 per cent of Egypt’s population in danger of infection