Egypt journalist dies of coronavirus after delay in medical care

Egyptian journalists announced that their colleague at Al-Khamis weekly newspaper, Mahmoud Riad Abu Jabal, has become the first reporter to die of coronavirus.

A member of the council of the Syndicate of Journalists, secretary of the committee of liberties in the syndicate, Amr Badr, said on Facebook: “The first martyr of the coronavirus between journalists just passed away, my dear colleague Mahmoud Riad, the journalist at Al-Khamis newspaper, and a member of the Journalists Syndicate.” Another member of the council, Hisham Younis, confirmed that his colleague Mahmoud Riad died of the virus, noting that the deceased was not working after the newspaper was closed, “and he went out only in search of an opportunity here or there.” The Egyptian journalist, Ahmed Abdelaziz, said that the death of Abu Jabal should be a warning bell that more should be done about the unemployment crisis in the media sector.

Over the past few years, the closure of newspapers, websites and TV channels in Egypt has caused an unprecedented increase in the number of journalists who have lost their jobs. Opponents say that the restrictions imposed by the Egyptian regime were a direct cause of the closure of a large number of these newspapers and websites.

In a post on his Facebook page, journalist Mahmoud Riad, six days before his death, complained of the medical neglect suffered by people living with coronavirus in Egypt. “People who ask about my health … coronavirus has been causing constant fatigue and a very high temperature for 14 days,” Abu Jabal said. He added that during that period he called the emergency phone number announced by the Ministry of Health, and the person who received his call said to him only, “you should take care of your health.”

He added that he decided to go to the fever hospital but “it was just for the suffering and disease to continue,” noting that the result of the analysis that takes 15 minutes in rest of the world takes 48 hours in Egypt. He said that any error in the examination requires waiting for a full week: “Seven days is enough for anyone to die, as happened with many [others]. For 14 days I have been tortured … your prayers … there are no serious steps [being taken].”

Egyptian journalist Mohamed Munir said that the late journalist Mahmoud Riad Abu Jabal could have been saved if medical care had started early, but they left him in agony for two weeks until his health deteriorated dramatically. Despite this, he admits that Abu Jabal received “special care” when the Press Syndicate Council interfered and contacted a number of officials in an attempt to save him.

Observers say that there have been cases of people infected with coronavirus who have died without the necessary medical analyses being performed, and that they have not been registered as coronavirus deaths. These testimonies bring to mind Canadian researchers’ estimates that the true numbers of people infected with the coronavirus are much more than the officially announced numbers. The researchers said, in mid-March, that the actual numbers of the infected ranged between 6,000 and 45,000, and it is likely that the actual number (then) was 19,300.

The Egyptian government denied that information at the time, but deep suspicions surrounding the official figures have remained. On Monday, the largest number of new coronavirus victims were recorded in Egypt, where the medical authorities announced 20 deaths and 248 infections, bringing the total number to 4,782.