Sale of counterfeit face masks and surgical gloves on the rise in Egypt

An employee of the Egyptian Ministry of Health wears a protective mask as he walks near the House of Representatives, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo. (AFP)
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Updated 28 March 2020

Sale of counterfeit face masks and surgical gloves on the rise in Egypt

  • Security officials found 1,500 bogus facemasks, 500 pieces of cloth unrelated to factory work and 10 sewing machines
  • Other raids in the Cairo resulted in the detention of a warehouse owner for the bottling of unlicensed sanitizers

CAIRO: As demand for protective gear to combat the coronavirus disease COVID-19 rises, Egypt is witnessing a concurrent rise in counterfeit face masks and surgical gloves being offered for sale.

Egyptian security officials are in pursuit of a number of people who are attempting to profit from the global crisis by selling fake protective clothing. Officials in Sharqeya governorate, south of Cairo, have announced that they uncovered an unlicensed two-story factory manufacturing medical kits.

Security officials found 1,500 bogus facemasks, 500 pieces of cloth unrelated to factory work and 10 sewing machines.

In Giza governorate, security officials raided a factory producing fake face masks following a tipoff. Police discovered 200,000 face masks of unknown origin and arrested the factory’s two unemployed owners.

Other raids in the Cairo resulted in the detention of a warehouse owner for the bottling of unlicensed sanitizers intended for sale at inflated prices. Police found 17 tons of ethyl alcohol and 2,500 empty bottles “ready to be filled” in the warehouse, all of which were undocumented and of unknown origin.

Elsewhere, five people were detained for renting a workshop in a neighborhood affiliated to Al-Maasara police station in Cairo. They were using the workshop to manufacture unlicensed medical face masks using materials of unknown origin and an unregistered logo to sell them.

Police reportedly discovered 45 meters of cloth for making face masks, 1,500 face masks that had been made in the workshop, “huge numbers” of illegally obtained face masks, and six sewing machines.

The Investigation Unit at the 6 of October police station in Cairo has detained the owner of a medical supply office, the owner of a laundry shop, and a tailor at the same shop for manufacturing medical face masks using cheap materials of unknown origin which do not conform to international standards. The detainees were reportedly packaging the face masks in fake sanitized packages to fool customers.

Parliamentarian Tarek Metwally, a member of the Industry Committee in the House, submitted a request for an examination of such items, saying that face masks and sanitizers of unknown origin have been found in market places. These products have not been manufactured in accordance with proper health standards and had been selling on a large scale, feeding on the public’s fear of COVID-19 and desire to find ways to protect themselves.

Metwally claimed that counterfeit face masks that do not conform to the required standards and could actually transmit the virus. He also suggested that sanitizers made in unlicensed factories are dangerous “because no one knows what they are made of” and that they “might cause skin cancer.”

The cost of face masks has skyrocketed in Egypt, particularly since some private schools — although they are currently shut — had informed parents that they should buy face masks on a daily basis.

Hatem El-Badawy, a member of the Pharmacies Owners Division at the Chambers of Commerce Union, called on authorities to monitor face mask manufacturers to guarantee high-quality products for consumers.

He told Arab News that black-market face masks harm consumers rather than protect them.

By Friday evening, Egypt had reported 495 infections, including 24 deaths, since COVID-19 first appeared in the country in mid-February.


Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

Updated 25 May 2020

Resumed cargo flights: Thaw in Israel-Turkey ties?

  • Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile
  • Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara – Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians

ISTANBUL: Israeli airline El Al has resumed cargo flights twice weekly between Tel Aviv and Istanbul for the first time in 10 years — a sign that decade-long bilateral tensions might be easing.
A cargo flight landed in Istanbul on Sunday morning to pick up humanitarian aid and protective equipment destined for US medical teams fighting COVID-19.
Burhanettin Duran, head of the Ankara-based think tank SETA, wrote that Turkey’s regional empowerment is “obliging Israel to search for normalization steps with Ankara.”
Dr. Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, said the cargo flight is a positive and visible development in bilateral relations that was probably approved by top government officials on both sides and required diplomatic efforts.
“However, the fact that this step takes place in parallel to a discussion about Israeli annexation in the West Bank, and to criticism of annexation by regional and international actors, might impact how it’s viewed in Turkey,” he told Arab News.
Goren said while the Israeli and Turkish governments continue to have significant policy differences, they should work to restore their relations to ambassadorial level, and to relaunch a strategic dialogue on regional developments of mutual interest.
“The forming of a new Israeli government, and the appointment of Gabi Ashkenazi as a new foreign minister, could be an opportunity to do so, and the cargo flight brings some positive momentum,” he added.
Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador in May 2018 after the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Ankara’s involvement in Syria’s Idlib province against the Tehran-backed Assad regime has recently provided a common denominator for Turkey and Israel to reconcile, as it also serves the latter’s strategic interests in weakening the Iranian presence in Syria.
But Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians remains a major irritant in relations with Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday reiterated his support for the Palestinians. 
In a video message on Twitter, he said the issue of Jerusalem “is a red line for all Muslims worldwide.”
He added that Israel’s “new occupation and annexation project … disrespects Palestine’s sovereignty and international law.”
Ryan Bohl, Middle East analyst at geopolitical-risk firm Stratfor, told Arab News: “Turkey is trying to create economic ties with Israel because … Erdogan is finding the political ground changed, caused in part by demographic changes as young Turks are less incensed by the Palestinian issue, and in part by a general weariness among Turks about putting too much skin in the game to solve the Palestinian question,” 
Israel is expected to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank on July 1 under the terms of a coalition government agreement. Ankara has strongly criticized the plan.
Israeli and Turkish officials are rumored to have held talks behind closed doors to reach a deal on maritime borders and exclusive economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean. 
Israel’s Foreign Ministry recently said it was “proud of our diplomatic relations with Turkey.”
But Goren said it is currently unlikely that Israel will advance a maritime demarcation deal with Turkey as it would shake several regional balances at the same time.
“It will put in jeopardy, and run in contrast to, the important alliances in the eastern Mediterranean that Israel has fostered in recent years with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt,” he added.