The Egyptian government has put in place tough measures to protect citizens as the country fights the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, whilst also curbing the spread of infections. In turn, Parliament is closely monitoring the performance of these measures, and passing the necessary legislation to help Egypt overcome the virus.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Member of Parliament (MP) Makram Radwan, who is also a member of the Health Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives, talks us through the committee’s role. He also talks on how the situation is being assessed, and what Egyptians can expect in the future.
Has a law imposing penalties for not wearing face masks in public been approved?
Yes, it was passed yesterday. It gives the Minister of Health the power to issue binding decisions on citizens in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, the law stipulates that whoever does not commit to wearing a face mask would be subject to a prison sentence or a fine of EGP 4,000.
Are there penalties for not committing to the precautionary measures other than face masks?
Whoever objects or prohibits the burial of a dead person for any reason would be subject to the same penalty, either imprisonment or an EGP 4,000 fine.
When will the actual application of this law start?
It will commence from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette. The approval process for it has ended and it will be sent to the Presidency and then published in the Official Gazette.
Do you think that this law could prevent the spread of the coronavirus?
The law gives the Minister of Health the authority to issue such decisions, as the penalty will be applied after the minister’s decisions are issued.
Are our hospitals at full capacity or is there still room for more patients?
No of course, Egypt has a world-class healthcare infrastructure. We have many alternatives, as there are hospitals under the Ministry of Health, university hospitals, hospitals affiliated with the armed forces, and hospitals affiliated with the Ministry of Interior.
Is it possible to include all hospitals that are not affiliated with the Ministries of Health and Higher Education into the system, or do you think the situation will not need this?
Of course, everything is possible. This decision will be taken if necessary, and when we need it. You are going step-by-step and preparing yourself, and when we feel that the capacity is nearing expiry, we may take more steps.
Have we reached the peak stage?
Yes, we are at the peak stage.
Do we need more CPR? And do you, as part of the parliament’s health committee, see this as the best way to confront the pandemic?
We adhere to global health standards. If these were the global health recommendations, we have nothing to stop us from doing so. What we need is to focus more, and get more medical team members tested.
Do you think the protocol in use with the medical team is appropriate or needs further modification?
I see medical teams need more attention and care.
What steps has the committee taken for the coming period?
The committee has amended the Law against Infectious Diseases, and has given the Minister of Health the authority to issue the decisions it deems appropriate at the appropriate time and for a suitable period to face the coronavirus pandemic. This was a very important amendment. We are now trying to solve their problem, and we are seeking coordination between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Higher Education, so that if there is an ambitious fellowship programme, the Ministry of Higher Education and the universities must be involved.
Are there efforts on your part to strike a balance between the Medical Syndicate and the Ministry of Health?
The committee has been on good terms with all parties over the past five years. The final decision, however, lacks sufficient coordination between all three parties, and we need to have more discussions. There were directives from the Speaker of Parliament to solve the problem of assigning doctors, so I went ahead with a fully integrated project for the House of Representatives Education Committee, and the issue has been studied well. Unfortunately, since everyone works on isolated islands, the Ministry of Health does not want to cooperate with the Ministry of Higher Education, and the two do not want to deal with members of the parliament (MPs), and all three do not want to deal with the Supreme Council of Universities.
There are those who recommended graduating a batch of medics early to solve the shortage of doctors due to many emigrating, as well as extending the age of pension, or converting pharmacists to doctors. Which solution do you lean toward in the committee?
We tend towards extending the pensionable age by one year for those whose health permits, and who are known for their competence, and who are loyal at work, and we feel that this is the best solution.
An MP recently contracted the coronavirus. What measures have been taken following this?
All colleagues who came into contact with the MP were isolated at home for a period of two weeks. Parliament has been disinfected three times, and everyone was ordered to wear face masks and use alcohol hand sanitizers.
Did you feel any anxiety when you learned of an infection in parliament?
Indeed, we were concerned for the dear colleague and her family. We also feel we must be more cautious and committed in our actions.
Do you think relaxing curfew measures after the Eid Al-Fitr holiday will have a good result?
I was hoping for a lockdown for five days from the end of Ramadan.
What about the treatment of medical staff who have died of the coronavirus?
I was the first to call for this. We all wrote proposals, and there are bills on this subject that will be cleared and announced soon.