Outcry in Algeria after pregnant doctor dies of virus

Wafa Boudissa, 28, was eight months pregnant and worked at the IC surgery unit of the hospital when she died on Friday. (Photo courtesy: Social media)
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Updated 17 May 2020

Outcry in Algeria after pregnant doctor dies of virus

  • The health minister sacked the director of the Ras El Oued hospital following the incident
  • Wafa Boudissa succumbed to COVID-19; she was eight months pregnant

ALGIERS: The death of a pregnant Algerian doctor from the COVID-19 disease after she was denied maternity leave has sparked an uproar and prompted the dismissal Sunday of a hospital director.
Health Minister Abderrahman Benbouzid sacked the director of the Ras El Oued hospital in eastern Algeria after Wafa Boudissa succumbed to COVID-19, a source close to the case told AFP.
The 28-year-old doctor was eight months pregnant and worked at the IC surgery unit of the hospital when she died on Friday.
She had asked the hospital chief, who was not named, for early maternity leave, but he refused to let her take any time off.
Colleagues of the victim had backed her request and signed a petition in solidarity, one of them said.
Benbouzid on Saturday ordered an investigation into the death of Boudissa and, in an unprecedented move, tasked the inspector general of the health ministry to head the probe.
The source close to the case said that anyone found directly responsible for her death could face trial for negligent homicide.
State television meanwhile broadcast footage showing Benbouzid visiting the hospital and then Boudissa’s family home to offer his condolences.
In the footage, Benbouzid said he could not comprehend why a pregnant woman was forced to work, while Boudissa’s co-workers denounced those behind her death.
A presidential decree released at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic had stated that pregnant women and those raising children were among individuals allowed to take exceptional leave from work.
According to officially declared figures, Algeria has registered 6,821 cases of coronavirus, including 542 deaths, since February.


Iran records highest COVID-19 cases in over month

Updated 2 min 20 sec ago

Iran records highest COVID-19 cases in over month

  • Latest count takes the total cases identified in Iran since late February to 314,786
  • Iran made wearing masks mandatory in enclosed spaces
TEHRAN: Iran confirmed Tuesday over 2,700 new COVID-19 infections, its highest single-day count in more than a month, as the health ministry called for those without masks to be fined.
Deaths and infections from the novel coronavirus have been on a rising trajectory in the Islamic republic since hitting a months-long low in May.
This has prompted Iran to make wearing masks mandatory in enclosed spaces and reimpose restrictions lifted gradually since April to reopen the economy.
Despite the rule, people without masks can still be seen inside the capitals’ shops and banks, and state television often criticizes them for doing so.
“In the past 24 hours, new confirmed cases were reported to be 2,751,” health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in televised remarks.
The number is the highest since June 5, when the ministry reported 2,886 infections in one day.
The latest count takes the total cases identified in Iran since late February to 314,786, Lari added.
Another 212 people died from the virus during the past 24 hours, bringing the overall toll to 17,617.
Iran’s deputy health minister called for those who fail to obey the mask rules to be fined, as the only penalty currently in place is the refusal of service in public places.
“Deterrent methods must naturally be used, one of which is fining those not wearing masks,” ISNA news agency quoted Iraj Harirchi as saying.
But those “financially unable to buy masks must be exempted,” he added, without elaborating how that could be determined.
Iran has suffered a sharp economic downturn since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation.
It has seen a drop in non-oil exports compounded by a tumbling currency and runaway inflation, piling new pressure on those already dependent on government cash handouts.
Masks in Iran cost from about 15 US cents for simple surgical ones to 68 cents for multilayered ones with respirators, while the minimum wage is currently $2.60 per day.