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Egypt: COVID-19 infections among the military amid lack of transparency

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Major General Shafei Abdel Halim Dawood, director of the Major Projects Department, affiliated to the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces, has recently died after contracting the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. It is known that the Engineering Authority has been overseeing several projects during the last period, most notably the construction of the new administrative capital. Also, Major General Khaled Shaltout, Chief of Staff of the Engineering Authority’s Water Department, has died after having contracted COVID-19[1].

The number of COVID-19 infected cases among the ranks of Egyptian army, soldiers and officers, as reported by some sources, has reached hundreds so far. Although there is a state of secrecy is imposed on infected cases, the number of military personnel who have contracted coronavirus continues to increase, amid a state of anxiety and confusion among the ranks of the armed forces. Although there are strict warnings all officers, recruits, and their families not to talk about infected cases in any way, however the death of Major General Shafei was disclosed by the deceased’s nephew, Adel, who wrote a post on his Facebook account mourning his uncle, which embarrassed the military leadership that announced the death later. There are circulated reports that the field military hospitals that the army prepared during March 2020 were specifically designed for isolating the military, such as the field military hospital that the army established next to Maadi Military Hospital.

field military hospital

The document that was circulated during March 2020 on social networking sites revealing some COVID-19 infected cases among military personnel is 100% correct. That document caused widespread confusion among the armed forces ranks, raising a state of discontent among army officers and other military personnel about the way the coronavirus pandemic crisis has been addressed, with respect to lack of transparency.

 widespread confusion among the armed forces ranks

It is worth noting that both Major General Shafei Dawood and Major General Khaled Shaltout did not die during participation in activities to counter coronavirus in Egypt, according to the statement released by the military spokesman, because it was confirmed that they contracted the virus on March 9, 2020, that is, about two weeks before deployment of some army forces in some governorates in order to sterilize civil facilities on March 17, 2020; and therefore the two deaths were not related in any way to fighting coronavirus. However, the Sisi regime is trying to exploit the deaths of army commanders politically in order to continue claims that the military are giving their lives for the sake of the homeland and the Egyptian people, while the truth is exactly the opposite.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak among the army ranks is due to the fact that an officer in the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces was returning from an official visit in Italy during February; however, this officer later turned out to have contracted coronavirus while he was in Italy. Upon his arrival from abroad, the officer met with Major General Shafei Dawood and Maj. Gen. Staff Khaled Shaltout, to give a brief about his official visit to Italy, who later met with Major General Staff Ehab El-Far, the head of the Engineering Authority, who in turn met with Sisi on February 23, 2020[2], as well as attending the meeting of the army commanders with Sisi on March 3, 2020[3].

meeting of the army commanders

All military commanders who attended the meeting with Sisi on March 3, 2020, underwent medical examinations, including COVID-19 tests, which came out negative for the head of the Engineering, Ehab El-Far. Although Al-Sisi conducted two tests after the meeting that both turned out negative, he reportedly entered a self-isolation period for two weeks inside the Air Force Command headquarters, Heliopolis, Cairo.

The names of commanders of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) who attended the March 3, 2020 meeting with Sisi:

1- Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi14-Maj. Gen. Staff Salah Saraya, GOC – Western Military Zone
2- Lt. General Mohamed Zaki, Commander in Chief and Minister of Defense15- Maj. Gen. Ahmed Wasfi, GOC – Central Military Zone
3- Lt. Gen. Mohamed Farid Hegazi, Chief of Staff16-15- Maj. Gen. Staff Tarek Zaghloul, Head of Armament Authority
4- Lt. Gen. Mohamed Abbas Helmi, Air Force Commander17- Maj. Gen. Staff Ahmad Al-Demerdash, Chairman of the Financial Affairs Authority
5- Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ali Fahmy, Commander of Air Defense Forces18- Maj. Gen. Staff Waleed Abul Magd, Head of Logistics Authority
6- Lt. Gen. Ahmed Khaled, Commander of Naval Forces19- Maj. Gen. Staff Tarek Hassan, Head of Officers Affairs Authority
7- Lt. Gen. Osama Askar, Head of Operations Authority20- Maj. Gen. Staff Khaled Megawer, Director of Military Intelligence
8- Maj. Gen. Staff Emad El-Ghazali, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Defense21- Maj. Gen. Staff Mamdouh Shahin, Assistant Minister of Defense
9- Maj. Gen. Staff Yehya Taha El-Hamili, Chairman of Training Authority22- Maj. Gen. Staff. Mohamed El-Dash, Commander of Unified Command
10- Maj. Gen. Staff Rafik Raafat Arafat, Commander of the Second Army23- Maj. Gen. Staff Salah El-Reweini, Head of Military Judiciary
11- Maj. Gen. Staff Khaled Qenawi, Commander of the Third Army24- Maj. Gen. Staff Ehab El-Far, Head of Engineering Authority
12- Maj. Gen. Staff Fahmy Heikal, GOC – Northern Military Zone25- Maj. Gen. Staff Adel Ashmawi, Head of the Organization and Administration Authority
13- Maj. Gen. Staff Ashraf Al-Hosary, GOC – Southern Military Zone26- Maj. Gen. Staff Ayman Shehata, Commander of Border Guards

More military documents reveal the army’s lack of transparency

There are two documents circulated during March, revealing the lack of transparency of the Egyptian army in dealing with the crisis of coronavirus pandemic:

a- On March 27, 2020, a top secret military document was circulated on social networking sites, revealing the COVID-19 “endemic” areas in Egypt, as the Operations Authority of the Egyptian Armed Forces issued a circular dated 26 March to all army units regarding the governorates where the coronavirus pandemic widely spread, namely Menoufia. (North of Cairo), Damietta (North of Cairo), Alexandria (North of Cairo), Minya (Upper Egypt), and Qena (Upper Egypt)[4].

In the face of these endemic areas, the military institution decided on March 26, 2020, a set of precautionary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 among its ranks, commanders, officers and conscripts. The measures included a decision to halt leave permits for military personnel living in the in these “endemic” areas, and to extend the leave permits to those currently present outside military units (specifically residents of these areas) for a period of 15 days. The decision also stated that the returnees from these areas must be quarantined for 15 days.

This document evidently proves the state of lack of transparency of the military and the Sisi regime in general in addressing the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. However, the Ministry of Health later announced isolation of these areas after the document was leaked![5]

evidently proves the state of lack of transparency of the military

b- The second document was circulated on social networking sites on March 28, revealed that the army was preparing the “Heliopolis Military Hospital” to be a quarantine center for receiving COVID-19 infected cases of military personnel, in addition to preparing the Egypt International Exhibition Center’s conferences hall, Nasr City, Cairo, and Maadi Military Hospital, also to serve as quarantine centers.

The document that was issued on Saturday, 28 March 2020 , from the Medical Services Department of the Egyptian Army’s Logistics Authority, confirms evacuation of the “Heliopolis Military Hospital” and modifying the treatment map according to orders issued by Magdy Amin Mubarak, the director of the Medical Services Department of the armed forces.

The military letter was directed to the Medical Complex in Maadi, Ghamra Military Hospital, and Heliopolis Military Hospital to respond to the instructions and start implementing them. According to the document, the treatment map of Heliopolis Military Hospital has been modified, so that the families of officers with the ranks of Colonel and Lt. Colonel will receive medical service at the Medical Complex in Maadi, and the families of the rank of Major at Ghamra Military Hospital, provided that cases of dialysis at Heliopolis Hospital be transferred to Ghamra Military Hospital. The document indicated that the orders would be executed from Saturday 28 March 2020 until other orders are issued.

This document also demonstrates the state of lack of transparency in the military institution’s way of addressing the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. Preparation of more than one military quarantine center for persommel of the armed forces may indicate that the numbers of COVID-19 infected cases among army officers and recruits are so many, including cases in a critical situation, and therefore various places have been created and equipped as quarantine centers to receive them.

demonstrates the state of lack of transparency in the military

Footnotes

[1] Maj. Gen. Shafea Abdel Halim Dawoud dies after contracting coronavirus, Youm7, published March 23, 2020, entry date March 26, 2020, Link

[2] Al-Sisi orders quickly completing of projects of roads and bridges development, Masrawy, published February 23, 2020, entry date March 26, 2020, Link

[3] Al-Sisi meets with the Armed Forces commanders at the Ministry of Defense, Al-Mal, published March 03, 2020, entry date March 26, 2020, Link

[4] mahmoud gamal , Twitter, Link

[5] Health: Isolation of the regions of Minya, Port Said, the Red Sea and Menoufia to prevent spread of Corona, Al-Watan, published on March 29, 2020, entry date March 29, 2020, Link

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