When the World Health Organization warned on Monday that the threat of a pandemic related to coronavirus has become very real, this means that we are facing a phenomenon that does not concern us alone.
What is required now is to act with transparency in related to the reported cases in Egypt, but we should also avoid adapting what the government says to become simply a reaction to outside campaigns.
There must be a clear conversation about the coronavirus outbreak — about Egypt’s ability to prevent it and how (Egypt’s capabilities) can be supported and developed — in addition to an accurate publication of the number of cases confirmed, the number of those who carry the disease (but are asymptomatic), and the number of those who have recovered.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the high number of people infected with the virus in Italy is the expansion of authorities’ efforts to detect cases of the virus unlike the rest of Europe, where most countries have focused more on methods of prevention and treatment. This means that the figures of those who carry the virus are not the only serious threat.
Certainly, Egypt needs to remain transparent about its ability to prevent the spread of the outbreak, and ask for help and support if there are shortcomings.
In fact, there are incidents that require real effort to not be repeated. Photos went viral in many newspapers around the world, and were used by some Arab satellite channels, of thousands of Egyptians crowding (in front of the Central Public Health Laboratories in Downtown Cairo) to undergo a medical test to prove that they are not infected with the virus as a condition to travel to some Gulf countries. This should have been avoided.
It is assumed that the Health Ministry would expect a relatively large number of people to go for the test, and the ministry should have provided more than one place to receive them so that these (types of) photos do not go viral. Some of us simply condemned the crowds without any effort to correct the actions of the government.
As for the issue of the impact of the virus on tourism — it is a certain matter. This is a crisis that has hit the tourism sector across the globe and has nothing to do with Facebook posts.
News on the infection of some tourists who visited Egypt recently, especially those from France and Germany, does not represent efforts to target Egypt. These reports are an acknowledgment of a reality that will unfortunately impact the tourism sector, and we have to deal with it.
Again, Egypt should tighten preventative measures, (which would include) medical examinations for all those coming to Egypt. The virus does not discriminate.
The first step is to study how to prevent the (spread of) the virus and to engage with the issue of the outbreak, not to remain preoccupied with responding to satellite channels that exaggerate in their reports or other forces acting in bad faith.
The best way to battle rumors about the virus is for the government to do its homework on preventative measures, treatment and quarantine, and that any decision to close schools or take other steps come from a scientific evaluation of the risks associated with the spread of the virus in Egypt, not a reaction to rumors or false news and propaganda.