Egyptian police fired tear gas and arrested 23 people in a Daqahliya village on Saturday after protesters attempted to prevent the burial of a doctor killed by the coronavirus out of fear that the burial would allow the virus to spread.
"Some outlaws in the cemetery area of Shobra El-Bahw village tried to prevent the burial of a woman who died as a result of being infected by coronavirus… Those elements were dealt with and 23 of them were arrested," the interior ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
"This was caused by rumors and incitement promoted by the electronic committees of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group under the pretext of preventing the spread of the disease," the statement added.
The 64-year-old doctor, who tested positive for the virus upon her return from Saudi Arabia, passed away last week in an Ismailia isolation hospital.
A video shared on social media shows authorities firing tear gas to disperse protesters in the village, with a number of the protesters arrested during the skirmish.
Her interment finally came after authorities intervened to allow the burial in the hometown of the doctor’s husband under strict security measures, after failing to convince local residents to clear the road to the cemetery.
Authorities had first tried to bury the doctor in her hometown, also in Aga, but residents in the area did not allow the burial.
This is not the first time in recent days that people have opposed the burial of coronavirus victims over the misconception that this would allow the virus to spread.
On Friday, Egypt reported 17 new fatalities from the virus, marking the country's highest single-day death toll and bringing the total number of deaths to 135.
Ninety-five new coronavirus cases were detected on Friday, bringing the total number of cases so far to 1,794.
The burials of coronavirus victims are often being held in secret in Egypt under police supervision with the attendance of only close family members.
Egypt has ordered mosques and churches to be shut to worshippers in an attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus, banning all prayers, including funeral prayers and memorial services, for Muslims and Christians at all houses of worship nationwide.
Dr Ayman Fouda, chief forensics doctor, said the health ministry is committing to strict guidelines in washing and enshrouding the deceased.
The deceased is washed with a 10 percent chemical preservative formalin, with charcoal placed inside a sealed bag and the cemetery sterilised and then closed following the burial for sixty days to avoid possible infections during the process.
Following Saturday’s incident, Egypt’s Dar Al-Ifta – the authority in charge of issuing religious edicts – said it is not permitted to prevent burials.
“Opposition against the burial of coronavirus martyrs is not in accordance with our religion, values and manners,” it said.
The Islamic religious authority has deemed that those killed by the coronavirus are deemed “martyrs” due their pain and suffering, and has forbid the harassment of those infected with the virus.