Egyptian doctors call for more facilities to handle pandemic

People are pictured wearing protective face masks, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 May 2020

Egyptian doctors call for more facilities to handle pandemic

  • The virus has infected more than 350 members of Egypt’s medical staff. The number of doctors who have lost their lives to the virus has risen to 19

CAIRO: The Egyptian Doctors Syndicate said the Health Ministry failed to provide its members with the proper protection to ensure their safety while caring for patients with COVID-19.

Doctors in Egypt have expressed anger over the lack of medical supplies and tests for the virus.

The country mourned the passing away of four doctors on Sunday, which coincided with the first day of Eid Al-Fitr.

Their deaths were met with the resignation of several doctors, one of whom blamed “wilful negligence.”

As of Sunday, the ministry reported a total of 17,265 cases of coronavirus in Egypt and 764 deaths.

The virus has infected more than 350 members of Egypt’s medical staff. The number of doctors who have lost their lives to the virus has risen to 19. 

Doctors and nurses are not the only ones complaining about how health officials are handling the pandemic and the rising numbers of infections and deaths. 

“Back in March, the hotline was very responsive and it was very easy for me to be connected to a medical professional,” said a 32-year-old mother of three. 

“Now the hotline is dead. I called several times in May but I never got an answer. I believe the ministry is overwhelmed and can no longer handle the increasing numbers of cases.”

The ministry launched the hotline to help people who believed they might have contracted the virus. 

It says isolation hospitals are full and can no longer take in patients, yet it provided Egyptian actress Ragaa El-Geddawy with two rooms in one such hospital that was reportedly operating at full capacity. 

A colleague of Walid Yehya, a doctor who died from the virus, criticized the ministry for prioritizing those with money and fame over its own medical staff. 

Meanwhile, Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed directed officials to provide the best possible care to medical personnel.

“There is a complete floor in each isolation hospital with a capacity of 20 beds allocated for the affected medical staff,” she added.

The minister also stressed on providing psychological support to sick medical staff in isolation hospitals.


In war-battered Syria, pay demands turn football into ‘curse’

Updated 25 September 2020

In war-battered Syria, pay demands turn football into ‘curse’

  • $30,000 Is being demanded by players for a single season

DAMASCUS: Professional football clubs in war-battered Syria are struggling to sign new players, who are demanding raises to counter the decline in the value of their pay packets. 

Nine years into a grinding civil war, Syria’s economy is in tatters, life is increasingly expensive, and the national currency is in freefall on the black market. 

The coronavirus pandemic has compounded economic woes, with footballers forced to play in closed-door stadiums, wiping out turnstile revenues. 

“Professional football has become a curse,” said Eyad Al-Sibaei, president of Homs city’s Wathba club, runners-up in the Syrian league last season. 

“Players who once played with us for reasonable amounts are now demanding astronomical sums. They say it’s because of the devaluation” of the Syrian currency. 

The Syrian league, which has no foreign stars, was suspended for just one month for Covid-19, and it did not stop during the war except at the outset in 2011. 

Players were transferred last year for as little as 35 million Syrian pounds ($17,500 at the current black market rate), but Sibaei said players are now demanding salaries of up to 60 million pounds ($30,000) for a single season. 

“Next season, we’ll need between 400 and 500 million pounds for contracts and other expenses, knowing that the club only has around 160 million in its kitty,” he said. 

He said the club spent around 315 million last year, some of which he had to advance from his own pocket. 

Whereas the average Syrian earns between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds ($25-50) a month, an average professional football player brings home around 1.5 million pounds ($750) on a monthly basis. 

Osama Omri, a player with the Al-Wahda club which finished fifth last season, conceded football players were better off than the average Syrian. 

“The salaries are decent and the purchasing power of some players is good,” said the 28-year-old attacking midfielder with the Damascus club. 

“But it’s not enough to secure their future as a player’s lifespan on the field is short,” he said, as most players retire in their early thirties. 

No foreign player has been recruited since 2012, but today’s record devaluation is making even acquiring Syrian talent tough. 

The pound’s value against the US dollar has plummeted in the past year, from around 430 to 1,250 at the official rate, and from around 600 to 2,000 on the black market. 

The clubs Jaish and Shorta (army and police in English) are funded by the defense and interior ministries, respectively. 

But other clubs say the dual economic-coronavirus crisis has depleted their coffers, and are seeking funds elsewhere to recruit before the new season starts in a month. 

Reigning champions Tishreen, based in the coastal city of Latakia, have signed two new players with funds from sponsors and club board members. 

Ward Al-Salama, 26, who last year scored in Syria’s 1-0 win against the Philippines in World Cup 2022 qualifiers, is moving from Jaish for 50 million pounds ($25,000). 

Kamel Kawaya, 22, signed for Tishreen from Shorta for the same figure. 

Al-Wahda has renewed contracts with all its players, and even made three new signings. 

Its president Maher Al-Sayyed said he had pitched in to help cover some of next year’s ballooning budget. 

“I lent the club 180 million pounds while waiting for conditions to improve,” out of a projected budget of more than 600 million pounds, he said. 

In the northern city of Aleppo, Al-Ittihad are looking at a budget of 500 million pounds — more than twice last year’s. 

Basil Hamwi said they would be counting on fans and expatriates to help make it through the season. 

At Hutteen, another top-flight club from Latakia, coach Hussein Afash said he understood players’ demands. 

“The players are right to be asking for better-paid contracts after the devaluation of the pound as they’re now earning a fourth of what they did,” he said. 

Club president Khaled Tawil said he hoped that wealthy business tycoon Samer Foz would help cover costs. 

“We are counting on Foz, who sponsors our team,” he said.