Egyptian dad dies of COVID-19 after branding pandemic fake news on social media 

Doctors at the Sheikh Zayed hospital in Cairo intubate a patient. Egypt has reported over 10,000 Covid-19 cases so far. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 May 2020

Egyptian dad dies of COVID-19 after branding pandemic fake news on social media 

  • After contracting the virus he posted to social media admitting his mistakes, explaining the serious nature of the COVID-19, and calling on people to stay at home.
  • Mohamed Wahdan on Tuesday and will be buried in his home village of Taha Shobra

Cairo: An Egyptian dad who posted a video on social media claiming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak was fake news has died after contracting the virus. 

Tourism worker Mohamed Wahdan, 29, failed to heed World Health Organization and Egyptian Ministry of Health warnings about the global threat posed by COVID-19, dismissing it on Facebook as a story fabricated by the US to damage the Chinese economy. 

In his post on March 16, Wahdan, who lived with his wife and daughter in the Munefeya governorate north of Cairo, urged his fellow Egyptians to carry on with their lives as normal. He also criticized food hoarders and the closure of gyms while acknowledging the need to take precautionary measures against COVID-19. 

However, soon after downplaying the seriousness of the virus, he started showing symptoms and was admitted to an isolation hospital south of Cairo after testing positive for COVID-19. By that time, he had already infected his brother and father with the virus. 

Two days after being taken into hospital Wahdan’s health started to deteriorate but when he was able, he posted videos on his Facebook page admitting his mistakes, explaining the serious nature of the virus, and calling on people to stay at home. 

“I was told to stay at home and not to go out, but I didn’t take such warnings seriously as I was pursuing a false life,” he said. “Please do not take the virus lightly because it is a fatal disease that destroys every part of your body. 

“Hunger will not kill you. Do not risk your life. The disease is spreading in Egypt especially in Munefeya. Unfortunately, my siblings contracted the virus from me. Stay in your homes because this is a lethal disease. Please kindly pray for me from your hearts that I be cured soon of the virus. God bless you all.” 

In Wahdan’s last post before he died, he could barely talk. His friends announced his death on Tuesday and his funeral was held in his home village of Taha Shobra. 

On May 4, after his father had tested positive for COVID-19, Wahdan took to Facebook and said: “Please pray for my father Nady Wahdan who is currently in the chest hospital, because he has coronavirus. He is in bad shape. Please, God, help us through this. I wonder who will be next?” 

After becoming infected himself, Wahdan started posting online videos from the quarantine hospital, despite sometimes being unable to talk due to fever, to document his suffering and warn others of the dangers of the disease. In one, just before his death, he said: “I am dying.” 

A friend of Wahdan described him as an athlete and someone who always enjoyed good health. The pal, who wished to remain anonymous, told Arab News that Wahdan’s father was in hospital in the city of Shebein El-Kom and his brother, Bahaa, was receiving treatment elsewhere. He said both were in a stable condition but had not been told about Wahdan’s death. 

Mohamed Allam, vice chairman of an isolation hospital in the Egyptian city of Matrouh, said the fear and panic Wahdan had shown in some of his posts, were due to the constant pain and fever he had been experiencing. 

On Facebook, Allam said: “This does not necessarily happen to everyone. In a few cases the pain is extreme, and the fever goes on for days causing much more pain in the body and affecting a patient’s state of mind. Panic in such cases will not make things any better. 

“No one should face the beginning of the disease while in a state of surrender thinking that they will eventually die. Only God knows when we will die. There are very high rates of recovery. Of course, the disease has defeated some people but still, they are few.”


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 16 min 9 sec ago

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”