Deadly coronavirus spreading in Egypt prisons, says rights group

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Inmates at Borg el-Arab prison near Alexandria, photographed during a guided tour organised by Egyptian authorities. Photograph: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP via Getty Images

At least 14 prisoners have died from likely Covid-19 complications in scantly-monitored outbreaks of the disease at Egyptian detention centres, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

“At least 14 prisoners and detainees have died, most likely from Covid-19 complications, in 10 detention facilities as of July 15,” the rights groups said in a statement.

HRW based its report on witness accounts, leaked letters from prisons and reports by local rights groups.

“Prisons had insufficient medical care and virtually no access to testing for the virus or symptom screening,” it said.

Information about the health situation in Egyptian prisons is strictly controlled by the authorities.

HRW noted that Egypt had released some 13 000 prisoners since February, but this was “insufficient to ease overcrowding in congested prisons and jails”.

It urged authorities to ensure “adequate medical care” and to accelerate the release of prisoners.

“Prison authorities appear to have done no contact tracing measures and have done little to isolate prisoners who show symptoms,” HRW said.

Guards in at least three prisons had refused to allow inmates to source or wear masks, it added.

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