Cairo: The Egyptian government has vowed steps against drug-users among the country’s state employees after a recent fatal rail crash was blamed on a driver who tested positive for drugs.
Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouli this week ordered legal changes to the civil service regulations in order to allow for tougher penalties, including dismissal from the job, against drug-takers.
The proposed changes are expected to make regular drug tests obligatory for state employees and suspend workers, who refuse to undergo these tests.
The draft amendments will be discussed by the cabinet next week before they become a law.
Egypt has nearly 7 million state employees.
The move comes days after President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi warned in televised remarks that state employees proved to use drugs will have their “service terminated immediately”.
Last month, Egypt had one of its worst rail disasters when an unmanned locomotive rammed into concrete barriers at a platform in Cairo’s main train station, setting off an explosion and fire that killed 22 people. Investigations showed that the locomotive sped off after its driver left it without putting on the hand brake to have a brawl with a colleague. After his arrest, the driver tested positive for taking drugs.
The first stage of a government anti-drug drive among state employees targets providers of public services and child-care workers, according to officials.
Some Egyptians have expressed backing for applying obligatory drug tests to state workers.
“This is a right decision,” said Abdul Salam Madkur, a pensioner. “It will improve the employee’s behaviour. However, the test should be conductedon a surprise basis because drug takers have their own ways to conceal their use of drugs by drinking certain liquids such as milk,” he added.
Nabil Esmail, a healthcare employee, agrees. “No one should be worried about these tests as long as he does not take drugs. Enforcing these tests regularly and to all employees in the state agencies will boost performance and restore public trust,” he added.
In recent years, Egyptian authorities have launched a series of nationwide campaigns aimed at raising awareness among people, mainly youngsters, about the drug problem. These efforts have featured Egyptian celebrities, including Liverpool star Mohammad Salah.
Calls received at a hotline, set up by a state-run drug rehabilitation fund surged about four times higher in 2018 against the previous years, due to impact of Salah seen as a role model for many Egyptians, the government said this week without giving specific figures.
Three years ago, authorities in Egypt introduced regular drug tests for drivers of school buses, after some were blamed for crashes under the influence of narcotics. As a result, drug use has since dropped from 12 per cent to 3 per cent among these drivers, the fund’s head Amr Othman said in media remarks.