The Committee for Justice (CFJ) has documented the rise in the number of confirmed and suspected cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) among detainees, police officers and workers in detention facilities in Egypt to a total of 225 cases, with 149 suspected infections and 76 confirmed cases in 42 detention facilities in 12 governorates, according to the Corona Meter recently launched by CFJ and updated on a weekly basis.
The CFJ did not record any deaths due to the virus in the past week. Therefore, the total deaths recorded so far are 15 people in 10 detention facilities in 4 governorates as reported last week.
Based on health ministry protocols, the interior ministry only conducted 29 PCR tests and 33 blood tests for detainees although 193 have shown coronavirus symptoms.
Of the 64 confirmed infections, 20 have recovered, according to CFJ data, as the interior ministry transferred them to isolation hospitals for treatment after their health deteriorated.
In a belated move, the ministry has designated the New Minya Prison District Hospital in the south of Egypt as a center for the treatment of coronavirus cases inside prisons and other places of detention, amid the deteriorating medical care and the poor medical capabilities inside some prisons and the lack of them in many others, which is threatening the lives of more detainees.
CFJ has obtained documented information on the deteriorating health and living conditions in the prisons of Wadi al-Natrun, Tanta Public Prison, Zagazig Public Prison, Burj Al Arab, Tora prison complex, and Mansoura Public Prison. The information shows that the interior ministry has refrained from implementing preventive measures inside those prisons in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which poses a serious threat to the lives of detainees.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Mefreh, director of CFJ, has said that the organization welcomed the meeting held by the National Council for Human Rights with the assistant ministers for human rights and prisons, to discuss human rights in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Mefreh stressed that the meeting should not be part of attempts to whitewash the face of the interior ministry regarding its handling of the coronavirus crisis and the emergency measures that it implements in a manner that detracts from human rights, and is not commensurate with the current state of necessity, especially since the meeting came after more than four months of the complete closure of prisons and the international condemnation of the conditions inside prisons, amid appeals to improve the situation in light of the spread of the coronavirus in more than 42 detention facilities, which led to the death of 15 detainees so far, according to CFJ estimates.
CFJ calls on the ministry to stop its “systematic blackout” in dealing with the coronavirus crisis inside prisons and detention facilities, as well as to stop the exaggerated promotion of its intangible efforts on the ground, in terms of providing health care for prisoners, and measures to protect and prevent the spread of the virus, as well as requiring them to enable detainees to communicate with their families through alternative measures enshrined in Egyptian laws.