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Egypt to close stores, restaurants early for 2 weeks to curb COVID-19

Tourists are seen next to a meal made by Saqqara residents, who sell food to improve their living conditions in thier village, in Giza, Egypt, April 27, 2021. Government has ordered that eateries close shop at 9pm.
Tourists are seen next to a meal made by Saqqara residents, who sell food to improve their living conditions in thier village, in Giza, Egypt, April 27, 2021. Government has ordered that eateries close shop at 9pm.
Image: SHOKRY HUSSIEN

The closing hours of Egyptian stores, malls and restaurants will be brought forward to 9pm 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 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.

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 has been rolling out a nationwide vaccination programme 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.

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