Health workers residing in Egypt are applying for American visas in striking numbers, after the US Foreign Department posted an open call encouraging applications from medics abroad, a report said on Friday.
The US Embassy in Cairo received over 1600 visa applications within 48 hours, according to a report by The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister publication.
The Embassy – which typically receives various kinds of visa applications all-year round – saw a jump in applications within the two days, the report said, according to a source who did not want to be identified.
The applications are almost entirely from medical professionals, including doctors, pharmacists and dentists, the source added, in light of an announcement from the US State Department.
The US Department of Consular Affairs made a call for visa applications directed at medical personnel on March 27, in a Facebook post shared from its official account.
“We encourage medical professionals seeking work in the U.S. on a work or exchange visitor visa (H or J), particularly those working on #COVID19 issues, to contact the nearest U.S. Embassy/ Consulate for a visa appointment,” the post said.
A later edit clarified that applicants were only eligible if they have received approval to join a US exchange visitor program or have a petition – signed by a qualified US relative or potential employer and approved by the country’s immigration services.
The US Embassy in Cairo did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
It remains unclear if applicants from Egypt mentioned by the source have met this requirement.
Last week, Egypt announced the first death of an Egyptian doctor, Ahmed el-Lawah, as a result of Covid-19. Lawah developed pneumonia, and accusations pointed fingers at the health administration claiming the 50-year-old doctor was not provided with a ventilator as his condition worsened.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has recently announced a 75 percent raise to monthly allowances for medical professionals working in Egypt. This will cost the country – whose health ministry employs over half a million doctors alone – around EGP 2.25 Billion ($143 million).
A separate official source said the US move was “dangerous” for Egypt, as medical professionals in the country have proved to be a valuable asset in such dire situations.
The US government additionally advised foreign medical professionals already working in the US to consult with their sponsors to extend their programmes.
Egypt has now suspended commercial flights from its airport till April 15, after extending its initial suspension announced mid-March. The US embassy is organising exceptional flights to fly US citizens stranded in Egypt back home.
As of Wednesday, the US has the highest recorded cases of coronavirus infection in the world, reaching a total of 187,302 cases on Thursday.
According to the World Health Organisation Egypt reached a total of 779 confirmed cases the same day.