A doctor arrested after writing an article about Egypt's fragile health system. A pharmacist picked up from work after posting online about a shortage of protective gear. An editor taken from his home after questioning official coronavirus figures. A pregnant doctor arrested after a colleague used her phone to report a suspected coronavirus case.
As Egyptian authorities fight the swelling virus outbreak, security agencies have tried to stifle criticism about the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's handling of the crisis.
At least 10 doctors and six journalists have been arrested since the virus hit Egypt in February, according to rights groups. Other health workers say they have been warned by administrators to keep quiet or face punishment. One foreign correspondent has fled the country, fearing arrest, and another two have been reprimanded over "professional violations."
The coronavirus is surging in the country of 100 million people, threatening to overwhelm hospitals. As of Monday, the Health Ministry recorded about 76,000 infections, including 3,343 deaths -- the highest death toll in the Arab world.
"Every day I go to work, I sacrifice myself and my whole family," said a doctor in greater Cairo who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. "Then they arrest my colleagues to send us a message. I see no light on the horizon."
In 2013, el-Sissi, as defense minister, led the military's removal of Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, after his brief rule sparked nationwide protests. El-Sissi has stamped out dissent, jailing Islamist political opponents, secular activists, journalists, even belly dancers.
Now the clampdown has extended to doctors who speak out about their working conditions.
A government press officer did not respond to requests for comment.
In recent weeks, authorities have marshaled medical supplies to prepare for more patients. The military has set up field hospitals with 4,000 beds, scaled up testing and ordered companies to churn out masks and other supplies.
But health workers are sounding the alarm on social media. Doctors say they are forced to purchase surgical masks with their meager salaries. Families plead for intensive care beds.
The pandemic has pushed the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, a nonpolitical professional group, into a new role as the sole advocate for doctors' rights.
Last month, the union released a letter to the public prosecutor demanding the release of five doctors detained for expressing opinions about the virus response.
Another syndicate member, Mohamed el-Fawal, landed in jail last week, after demanding online that the prime minister apologize for comments that appeared to blame health workers for a spike in deaths.
Incensed doctors hit back, saying they're undertrained, underpaid and underresourced, struggling to save patients. So far, 117 doctors, 39 nurses and 32 pharmacists have died from covid-19, according to syndicate members' counts. Thousands have fallen ill.
Security forces shut down a syndicate news conference that was to respond to the prime minister's comments and discuss supply shortages, said former leader Mona Mina.
"These doctors have no history of activism, they were arrested because they offered criticism of their very specific professional circumstances," said Amr Magdi of Human Rights Watch, which has confirmed the arrests of eight doctors and two pharmacists. Two have been released, he said, while the rest remain in pretrial detention.
In one case, security agents burst into the home of Hany Bakr, an ophthalmologist north of Cairo, according to his lawyer and Amnesty International, over his Facebook post that criticized the government for sending aid to Italy and China while Egypt's doctors were short of equipment.
In March, public prosecutors accused 26-year-old Alaa Shaaban Hamida of terrorism charges after she let a colleague call the government coronavirus hotline from her phone instead of first reporting the case to her managers, according to Amnesty International. Three months pregnant, she remains in pretrial detention.
Doctors in three provinces say administrators threatened to report them if they publicly expressed frustration toward authorities or failed to show up for work.
The suppression of criticism in Egypt is hardly unusual, analysts say, but the government has become more jittery as the pandemic tests its capabilities and economy.