Egypt restores normal working hours from June 1 and increases vaccine drive

Restricted trading times began in Eid Al Fitr to limit coronavirus spread

Egypt's Health Minister Hala Zayed speaks during a news conference announcing the details of a vaccination campaign against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Cairo, Egypt December 23, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly on Sunday said the nation’s businesses could return to their normal hours after four weeks of shorter trade to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Restaurants, cafes, retail stores and shopping malls will now return to their summer operating hours, as outlined by the Health Ministry last year.

The government said in the summer of 2020, after easing a four-month lockdown, that until the pandemic was under control there would be fixed operating hours for all businesses, with one set for winter and another for summer.

In winter, malls and shops are allowed to operate from 7am to 10pm on weekdays, and 7am to 11pm at weekends and on official holidays.

In summer, their closing times are extended to 11pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends and holidays.

Under the winter times, restaurants, cafes and bazaars can open from 5am and must close by midnight on weekdays and 1am on weekends and official holidays.

At a meeting of the Health Ministry's Covid-19 committee led by Mr Madbouly, it was announced that businesses could return to their previous working hours as of June 1.

Mass religious celebrations are banned and wedding and funeral pavilions shut until further notice. But weddings will be allowed in open-air venues.

Health Minister Hala Zayed, who was also at the committee meeting, said Egypt had opened 403 vaccination centres this year.

Ms Zayed said that the ministry was close to inoculating all those who signed up during the first phase of the programme.

She said that with the opening of new centres, 110,000 people were now being vaccinated every day, many more than when the programme began.

The ministry is also sending more mobile vaccination teams across Egypt to inoculate those with disabilities at home, and the elderly at old people's homes.

Ms Zayed said 26 centres would administer shots to workers in sectors including petroleum, electricity, aviation, railways and public transport, and at the Suez Canal.

She said that all hotel employees in the Red Sea resort cities of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, two of Egypt’s most visited tourist spots, have all been vaccinated.

There were plans to inoculate anyone linked to tourism in both cities soon, to ensure they could safely deal with foreign tourists.

In the first two weeks of June, Egypt expects to receive another two million doses each of vaccines made by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm.

There will also be another 1.9 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, supplied through the Covax programme, Ms Zayed said.

And another 20 million doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be supplied through the African Bank at the same time.

The UAE company that obtained the rights to supply the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in the Mena region has been contracted for another 20 million doses, Ms Zayed said.

And the ministry is stockpiling oxygen tanks to make sure it is prepared for any increase in Covid-19 infections.