CAIRO: Egypt’s press is currently concentrating on the recently announced bird flu outbreak, with national newspapers reporting cases of the bird flu strain H5N1 in several places around Egypt, including Cairo and the national zoo. However, reportedly no human cases have been found yet.
“A comprehensive national plan to fight the outbreak is in motion, reports national daily Al-Akhbar on its front page Tuesday. According to the newspaper, sick birds and poultry tested positive for the flu were slaughtered at farms and private houses where the infections were discovered. Owners of the poultry were “properly repaid for their loss, as charged by law.
Reportedly, around 70,000 doses of Tamiflu (a principal anti-viral treatment for the flu) are currently available, while 1.5 million are still being delivered to Egypt.
The newspaper denies circulating rumors that Egypt had discovered the flu during the African Cup of Nations, weeks before the official announcement of the outbreak. “The World Health Organization [said] Egypt announced the cases immediately after they surfaced; Egypt is following international procedures [in fighting the epidemic], reported the paper.
The Al-Ahram daily also reports that armed security forces are now intervening to help contain the epidemic, with forces being aided by a number of “trained teams provided by the Ministries of Health and Agriculture.
Meanwhile, independent and opposition newspapers were quick to assess economic loss due to the outbreak of the bird flu. Al-Masri Al-Youm reports that prices of fish and meat have increased in the past few days since the surfacing of the flu, with “tragic losses to poultry dealers and sellers.
The daily also reports angry protests staged by poultry sellers and farm owners in three governorates; the protestors sat-in for hours in front of the Ministry of Agriculture’s office after their farms and stores were closed down. The protestors reportedly said that the minister “must reconsider his decision.
Al-Ahram also ran a preview of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Cairo Tuesday evening; as part of an Africa and Middle East tour. Rice is expected to hold talks with President Hosni Mubarak and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Abul-Gheit.
“Relations with the United States [are intact]; we are principal partners with the United States in trade and economy, Magdy Rady, Egypt’s cabinet spokesman told the press in reference to Rice’s visit. “Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif’s recent visit to the United States gave a strong boost to our relations.
Opposition daily Al-Fajr focused on a different news angle. With the Judiciary Council revoking judicial immunity from three judges for allegedly criticizing recent elections and pointing out violations, Al-Fajr condemned the act, calling it “a humiliation of established judges.
“Egypt has turned into a big prison, Judge Mahmoud Al-Khodeiry, one of the accused, told Al-Fajr. “This is a first in history: no judge was prosecuted before for saying his opinion on a public matter. According to Al-Khodeiry, the general prosecutor ignored their complaints.
“Stripping us of immunity is but a way used by controlling political forces to terrorize the judicial system and to force us to admit defeat.
“I m very appalled that they want to interrogate us for slander instead of investigating and questioning the judges who are accused of vote-rigging, one of the judges in question told AP on Feb. 16.