Egypt declares two-week curfew to counter coronavirus
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt has declared a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. for two weeks from Wednesday to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and those who violate the measure will be penalized under emergency laws, the prime minister said.
Flights, which were suspended at Egyptian airports on March 19, will remain grounded for the first two weeks of April, the state information minister said.
A closure of schools and universities will also be extended to mid-April, while cafes, sports clubs and gyms will be shut for the next two weeks and restaurants will be restricted to home delivery only.
Shops other than food stores and pharmacies will be required to close from 5 p.m., two hours earlier than previously, as well as at weekends.
Those who do not respect the new rules face fines of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds ($255) or prison, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said in a televised press briefing.
“I call on all Egyptians to fully comply with these measures,” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Twitter. “And I affirm that all elements of the Egyptian state will confront any attempts to breach them with the utmost firmness and resolution.”
Egypt has confirmed 366 cases of coronavirus, including 19 deaths. Most early cases were linked to a cruise ship on the Nile from which a large group of foreigners tested positive, dealing an early blow to the country’s crucial tourism sector.
Senior officials have sought to reassure the public that they are able to contain coronavirus, and that they are publishing information on cases quickly and transparently.
“Compared to surrounding countries, we are still at the stage of being able to contain the spread of the epidemic,” Madbouly said.
Ahead of the briefing, state TV aired a video that highlighted strict measures taken in China to combat coronavirus, with a caption “Egypt can defeat coronavirus like China.” Footage showed workers spraying disinfectant in central Cairo.
Authorities face a challenge tackling the virus in a country of 100 million where much of the population is concentrated in fertile areas around the Nile and public health services can be severely stretched.
On social media, many had criticized the government for not halting services in mosques and churches before Saturday, when that decision was announced.
Listing the latest measures, Madbouly said almost all government offices would now close their doors to the public. He urged citizens to limit movement between towns and cities, and said a measure to restrict the number of government employees going to work would be prolonged until mid-April.
Separately, the government said it was allocating one billion Egyptian pounds ($63.69 million) to the health ministry to help it provide supplies.
Like other countries, Egypt has also taken steps to try to curtail the impact of coronavirus on the economy, including a surprise 3% cut to interest rates and an injection of 20 billion Egyptian pounds to support the stock market.
($1 = 15.7000 Egyptian pounds)
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