Public initiatives to fight coronavirus: Against governmental inaction

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the severe weakness of the Egyptian regime in dealing with risks that threaten the Egyptian people. The medical system is decaying and scientific research capabilities to confront the crisis are weak, as a result of decades of neglect, poor allocations, and lack of official interest. The regime itself has performed poorly, choosing neglect, corruption, and prioritising the economy over people’s lives and destinies. Within this context of a disgraceful official performance, several public initiatives have been launched to confront the pandemic and to provide help to people inside and outside the country.

CPAP machines 

All countries consider CPAPs (mechanical ventilators) as the saviour as the virus is targeting the respiratory system. As the virus spread, countries rushed to produce thousands of CPAPs, but the Egyptian regime stated that Egypt doesn’t need any more devices, according to the head of the scientific committee against coronavirus in Egypt, Doctor Hossam Hosni. Hosni said that Egypt has plenty of CPAPs, in spite of the death of doctor Ahmed Al-Lawwah, the professor of clinical pathology at Al-Azhar University, because there was not one available.

Against such ignorance, several initiatives were launched including an initiative to manufacture 5,000 CPAPs under the “Breath Initiative“, in preparation for the escalation of the crisis. Hesham Ouf, the official coordinator of the initiative, told Egypt Watch that the key motive to this initiative is the severe shortage of CPAPs and the expected increase in demand given that the virus infects the lung. The initiative included several civil society activists, businessmen, and public figures. Ouf explained that The British University in Egypt is the scientific consultant of the initiative, the Engineers Syndicate is the applying consultant, the industrial consultant is doctor Hany al-Salamoony, an expert in sustainable development in the UN, the legal consultant is doctor Gaber Nassar the former president of Cairo University, in addition to doctor Nadia Henry and many others.

Ouf explained the executive steps: “The project is divided into two phases. The first phase: studying the designs released by Medtronic Company to determine its components and find alternatives to some of the expired components, then reprogramming the device. This ends with a prototype considered as some sort of reverse engineering, in addition to development. The second phase: After prototype testing and making sure it works, we will produce what is known as Zero Lot, which is 10 devices allocated to be tested [so they can] get the approval of the Health Ministry. After that, we will be ready for mass production after buying all the components from global and local markets.”

The general coordinator mentioned that the price of one device is about EGP 170,000 ($11,000), while the initiative estimates the price to be between EGP 30-50,000 ($1,905-$3,175), as the phase of research and development would cost between EGP 800,000 to EGP 1 million ($50,794 to $63,492). There are several alternatives for the fund that have been studied and governmental departments are still in the discussion stage. 

Ouf clarified that the initiative is not open to donations from individuals: “It’s profitable for anyone who adopts it, as they would have new intellectual property rights. There are material gains if a company provided funds, and strategic gains if the state owned the new design, so we are focusing on negotiations with the government as it’s [the government’s] responsibility. If we fail, we will study the option of dealing with a company or get the fund from charities in the first phase of the project.”

The administration of 25 January Charitable Hospital in al-Sharqiyah Governorate, which is known for being built totally by donations collected from social media, has announced it will allocate EGP 5 million ($317,462) to buy CPAPs so they belong to the Health Ministry. But the hospital withdrew its offer after the government announced that it doesn’t need CPAPs. The hospital has said that its facilities are at the disposal of the state to be used as a quarantine hospital or whatever the ministry wants, besides sterilising governmental and public facilities. 

Other initiatives launched by association and civil foundations included the initiative of Madouh Hamzah, the universal consultant, to build field hospitals. But his proposal was met with comprehensive ignorance, then mockery, as one of the officials contacted him to file his proposal to the complaints committee of the government. The same happened with the engineer Akram Ismael, a founding member of the Bread and Freedom Party, who announced his willingness to participate and his team to design and implement field hospitals, but his initiative has been officially ignored also.


Thousands of Egyptians abroad have said they are ready to help stranded Egyptians around the world who can’t get home because of official ignorance or the high cost. Through social media applications and websites many public and common initiatives have been launched by individuals from Egyptian communities abroad to help the stranded. The Egyptian Immigration Ministry adopted the initiative and named it “Let’s be a support for each other”.  

Ahmed Sami, one of the participants in this initiative, told Egypt Watch that “Let’s be a support for each other” is an initiative launched by some of the Egyptians living abroad to help the stranded before the Ministry adopted it. “Concerning my personal experience, I’m one of the people who offered their home, money, and food to the stranded. One of the PR officials of the Ministry of Migration contacted me to thank me and sent a link of a Whatsapp group. I helped a young Egyptian man who was stranded here in Lebanon after air traffic was suspended while he was on a tourist visit. I helped him as much as I can,” said Sami.

Earlier, the Information Minister and government spokesman Osama Heikal announced that al-Sisi issued orders to the Tahia Misr Fund to pay for the quarantine period inside hotels, as directed by the government, but this did not happen according to what several returnees told Egypt Watch. They said that the government asked them to pay for the return ticket, which is almost twice the price as in normal days, and their expenses at $50 a day, and stipulated that the fees must be paid before return procedures could begin.