CAIRO: The closing hours of Egyptian stores, malls and restaurants will be brought forward to 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) to help contain the coronavirus for two weeks from Thursday, straddling the last days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Eid celebrations, the prime minister said on Wednesday.
Large gatherings, such as weddings, and concerts will be banned over the same period and beaches and parks will be shut between May 12-16, Mostafa Madbouly said in a televised address.
The number of new coronavirus cases has been steadily rising in Egypt in recent weeks and officials have warned of infections spreading further as families meet during Ramadan, which ends next week, with Eid festivities to follow.
“As a government and as officials, we are deeply worried that citizens are not fully complying with health precautions… we are beginning to see that infections are happening on a familial scale, when one person gets sick (they infect) the whole family,” Madbouly said.
While Egypt imposed stricter measures at the start of the pandemic, closing its airspace and setting nightly curfews to curb the spread of the virus, it has remained largely open since June 2020.
“You have a responsibility not just for yourself but also your family,” he said, flanked by Health Minister Hala Zayed and other senior officials.
“We are at a critical stage,” he said.
Some venues including hotels have been required to operate at limited capacity, and Madbouly said authorities had fined 1.7 million people 50 Egyptian pounds ($3.20) each for not wearing masks in public.
The government said Eid Al-Fitr holidays, marking the end of the Muslim dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan, will run from May 12-16.
Worshippers will be allowed to perform Eid prayers at designated mosques where regular weekly Friday prayers are held.
The government has been rolling out a nationwide vaccination program since January, and Madbouly said approximately 1 million people had been vaccinated so far.
Egypt expects to receive 4.9 million doses of different types of coronavirus vaccines in May, the earliest of which will be a shipment of 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to arrive next week.
The health ministry reported 1,090 new cases and 60 more deaths as of Tuesday. Experts say official numbers likely only reflect a small fraction of COVID-19 cases in the country due to relatively limited testing and the non-inclusion of private test results.
($1 = 15.6200 Egyptian pounds)
(With Reuters and AFP)
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