Not since 2014 has Egypt seen this amount of fake news items than it did in 2020, thanks to the coronavirus. Rumours about the pandemic made up 51.8 percent of the false news circulated in Egypt throughout the year, read a report released on Monday by the cabinet’s media centre.
And not that warnings of legal action succeeded in putting the brakes on the generation of rumours. Egypt’s general prosecution warned in late March against spreading fake news and rumours about the coronavirus, saying the act is punishable by jail sentences and fines of up to EGP 20,000.
The finance sector was the most hit by rumors in January 2020, and the health sector won the lion’s share throughout the following six months as the pandemic broke out in Egypt in mid-February.
According to the cabinet's report, the health sector was the most hit by rumours in 2020 with 24.1 percent, followed by the education and finance sectors.
Rumors hit many other fields, including supply, agriculture, housing, tourism and antiquities, social solidarity, fuel and electricity, and administrative reform, the report read.
The report detailed the most serious rumours generated in 2020, dividing them into “most serious,” “strangest,” “repetitive” and “rumours aiming to distort achievements.”
Most serious rumours
- Coronavirus patients undergo kidney dialysis along with other kidney patients in governmental hospitals.
- There is a shortage in equipment and supplies in Intensive Care Units in governmental hospitals.
- Some face masks made of non-medical materials are distributed in quarantine hospitals.
- Medical waste of quarantine hospitals is disposed of in an unsafe way.
- Some people donating blood in governmental hospitals contracted coronavirus.
- The government hanged banners with the phrase “Al-Khatar Yaqtareb” (Danger is nearing) to intimidate citizens.
- A shipment of meat contaminated with coronavirus was imported.
- The Ministry of Health is using the vaccines of Tuberculosis (TB) and Measles to vaccinate people against the coronavirus.
- Meningitis spread in various governorates.
- All fire extinguishers nationwide are unusable.
- Bodies of coronavirus victims are being burnt.
- The issuance of marriage contracts was suspended for a year starting July 2020.
- Fresh graduates of medical schools will be assigned nursing duties.
- Fees will be imposed on students to enter universities.
- A deduction was applied on salaries of teachers who are absent for contracting the coronavirus.
- Vaccines administered orally to children, including the polio vaccine, cause sterility.
- Alexandria dwellers are obliged to sign a ratification to stay in their houses that might fall down.
- School libraries turned into classrooms so that social distancing is maintained.
- Citizens will be excluded from the government subsidy programme if they lose the password of their subsidy card.
- Citizens will bear the cost of disinfecting mosques.
- An EGP 150 fine will be imposed for the issuance of burial permits.
- A number of Egyptian antiquities were sold to foreign parties.
- The Suez Canal saw major losses as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
- Shipments of bad flour were used to produce subsidised bread.
- A new strain of bird flu appeared in Egypt.
- Aid allocated for informal workers will be postponed.
- Plastic banknotes, yet to be issued, will make paper notes invalid.
- A tax is imposed on bank deposits.
- A large number of state employees have been laid off due to the state’s plan of moving to the New Administrative Capital.
- Swarms of black grasshoppers spread in Egyptian border areas.
Rumours distorting achievements
- A presidential initiative to eliminate waiting lists for critical surgeries was suspended.
- The government approved a law that immunes the donation-based Tahya Misr Fund from observation and accountability.
- Employees at the administrative apparatus, who will not move to work in the New Administrative Capital, will have their salaries reduced.
- The state budget plan was modified and EGP 100 billion was deduced to face the coronavirus implications.
- Suez Canal revenues decreased by 20 percent as ships started to take alternative routes.
- Historical places in Cairo are being developed in random ways.
- Slum dwellers are being forcibly displaced in various governorates without compensation.
- The health insurance system in Port Said failed due to a shortage in doctors.
- Financial allocations for social protection programmes were reduced in the general budget of FY 2020/2021.
- Work at projects of the National Authority for Tunnels was suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.