Black market for patient plasma emerges in Egypt

A black market for the plasma of COVID-19 patients has emerged in Egypt. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 June 2020

Black market for patient plasma emerges in Egypt

  • Egypt has had successful trials in which patients were injected with the blood of those who have recovered

CAIRO: A black market for the plasma of COVID-19 patients has emerged in Egypt, with people who have recovered from the disease offering to donate their blood for up to EGP30,000 ($1,884).

Egypt has had successful trials in which coronavirus patients were injected with the blood of those who have recovered, and the Ministry of Health has activated five blood banks nationwide for donations. 

Dr. Ehab Serag El-Din, director of the ministry’s Regional Blood Transmission Service, said that the black market emerged after Health Minister Dr. Hala Zayed announced the trial’s positive results.

“If a considerable number of those recovered donate there will be no black market,” Serag El-Din told Arab News. “But if some do not, there will be a black market that we are seeing. Moreover, there are unlawful calls for plasma donations in which more than EGP20,000 was put up on social media. We also saw on social media calls for donations of ventilators, which is totally not right because people who have been put on ventilators cannot be dealt with using plasma injections. The minister of health has explained this more than once. She said a plasma injection is doable for people who have not been put on a ventilator. People who received plasma turned from positive to negative faster than others and they spent less time in hospital.”

The issue of injecting coronavirus patients with the plasma of recovered patients was still in the experimental stage and undergoing clinical studies, he said. “The health minister will announce the results and afterward the experiments can be generalized and many patients will benefit from it,” he added.

 “It is not permissible to donate to private hospitals and labs. Moreover, it is not permissible to donate to a particular patient. I advise recovered patients to donate only at government centers allocated for donations because they are safer.”

Religious institutions have blessed the official donation initiative and encouraged those who have recovered from the disease to help others, citing a verse in the Holy Qur’an: “Whoever saved it (life) it is as though he had saved all mankind.”

Dar Al-Ifta, one of the principal Islamic bodies in Egypt, said that blood donation was religiously permissible and there was nothing wrong with it. “It is part of the social responsibility shouldered by patients who have recovered from the virus. A person who does it shall be rewarded.”

Serag El-Din addressed Egypt’s low blood bank supplies, saying that shortages also fueled the black market. It suffered from a 40 to 50 percent deficiency annually and the donation need for any country was three percent of its total population, he explained. “Egypt’s population is 100 million. Hence, we need three million blood bags annually. But in fact, we receive 650,000 blood bags annually via donations.”

Dr. Adel Magdy, who works in the blood donation field, said that there was a decline in donations after the pandemic began because people were afraid of becoming infected. “Furthermore, some who contracted the virus were very close to death and even more afraid to get infected again,” he told Arab News.

Egypt has 35,444 confirmed cases, 10,618 recoveries and a death toll of 1,271 to date.


Seth Rogen’s Israel comments highlight fraught diaspora ties

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a fire after an Israeli airstrike, on a floor in a building that also houses international media offices in Gaza City. (Reuters/File)
Updated 08 August 2020

Seth Rogen’s Israel comments highlight fraught diaspora ties

  • Jewish comedians’ conversation on Israel spark an uproar

TEL AVIV: It began as a lighthearted conversation between two Jewish comedians, riffing on a podcast about the idiosyncrasies of their shared heritage. But after talk turned to Israel, it didn’t take long for Marc Maron and Seth Rogen to spark an uproar.

Their comments about Israel — especially Rogen saying the country “doesn’t make sense” — infuriated many Israel supporters and highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with young, progressive Jewish critics in the diaspora.
Israel has long benefited from financial and political support from American Jews. But in recent years the country has faced a groundswell of opposition from young progressives, disillusioned by Israel’s aggressive West Bank settlement building, its perceived exclusion of liberal streams of Judaism and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cosy relationship with President Donald Trump.
“What Seth Rogen said is par for the course among our generation and the Israeli government has to wake up and see that their actions have consequences,” said Yonah Lieberman, spokesman for If Not Now, an American Jewish organization opposed to Israel’s entrenched occupation of the West Bank.
Rogen’s remarks follow a dramatic shift by an influential Jewish American commentator who recently endorsed the idea of a democratic entity of Jews and Palestinians living with equal rights on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Peter Beinart’s argument that a two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — is no longer possible sent shock waves through the Jewish establishment and Washington policymaking circles.
For many Jews, Israel is an integral part of their identity, on religious grounds or as an insurance policy in the wake of the Holocaust and in a modern age of resurgent anti-Semitism. But polls have shown that while most American Jews identify with Israel and feel a connection to the country, that support has waned over recent years, especially among millennials.
Some have even embraced the Palestinian-led movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel to protest what it says is Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Israel accuses the movement of waging a campaign to delegitimize its very existence.

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Their comments about Israel — especially Rogen saying the country ‘doesn’t make sense’ — highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with young, progressive Jewish critics in the diaspora.

In the podcast, Rogen, who appeared in such smash comedies as “Superbad” and “Knocked Up,” talked about attending Jewish schools and Jewish summer camp while growing up in Vancouver. He said his parents met on an Israeli kibbutz.
As they continued to chat, Rogen appeared to question why Israel was established.
“You don’t keep all your Jews in one basket. I don’t understand why they did that. It makes no sense whatsoever,” Rogen said. “You don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place especially when that place has proven to be pretty volatile. I’m trying to keep all these things safe. I’m going to put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place to, that’ll do it.”
Rogen then said he was “fed a huge amount of lies” about Israel during his youth. “They never tell you that ‘oh, by the way, there were people there.’ They make it seem like, ‘the (expletive) door’s open.’”
Maron and Rogen both joked about how frightened they were about the responses they would receive from Israel’s defenders. Their concerns were justified.
Rogen’s comments immediately lit up “Jewish Twitter.” They unleashed a flurry of critical op-eds in Jewish and Israeli media. And they prompted Rogen to call Isaac Herzog, the head of the Jewish Agency, a major nonprofit that works to foster relations between Israel and the Jewish world.
In a Facebook post, Herzog said he and Rogen had a frank and open conversation. He said Rogen “was misunderstood and apologized” for his comments.
“I told him that many Israelis and Jews around the world were personally hurt by his statement, which implies the denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Herzog wrote.
In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Rogen said he called Herzog at the urging of his mother and he denied apologizing. He said the comments were made in jest and misconstrued.
“I don’t want Jews to think that I don’t think Israel should exist. And I understand how they could have been led to think that,” he said.
Rogen also said he is a “proud Jew.” He said his criticism was aimed at the education he received, and he believed he could have been given a deeper picture of a “complex” situation.
Ironically, Rogen was on the podcast to promote his new movie, “An American Pickle,” about a Jewish immigrant to the US at the start of the 20th century who falls into a vat of pickle brine and emerges 100 years later. He called the project a “very Jewish film.”
Lieberman, from If Not Now, said the uproar shows “how much the conversation has changed” about Israel among American Jews.
Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, said Israel should not be expected to change its “security and foreign policies” based on growing estrangement from Jews overseas.
But he said it can take realistic steps to close the gap, such as establishing a pluralistic prayer site at the Western Wall, long a sticking point between Israel’s Orthodox establishment and more liberal Jews in the US
“It’s a challenge for Israel. It’s inconvenient. We want everyone to love us, especially other Jews,” he said. “Israel can do certain things to make it somewhat better.”