Egypt's government has ordered a ban on New Year's Eve parties at hotels, cafes and clubs as part of its efforts to contain the coronavirus epidemic.
A directive issued by the Tourism Ministry and seen by The National says offenders will face unspecified penalties.
Churches in Egypt, where Christians make up about 10 per cent of the over 100 million population, are introducing preventive measures for Christmas Mass, including limited attendances, social distancing and beaming the liturgy on social media networks to encourage the faithful not to throng churches.
The Coptic Orthodox Church, whose followers make up the vast majority of Egypt’s Christians, celebrate Christmas on January 7.
In Giza province, whose urban area is part of Greater Cairo, Governor Ahmed Rashed ordered half of the provincial government’s workforce to stay home in a bid to minimise the chances of the disease spreading. Field workers and emergency teams are exempt.
The ban on new year's parties at public venues is the latest measure to combat the coronavirus and came as the number of daily Covid-19 infections continued to surge. On Saturday, the latest day for which data is available, the number of registered cases was more than 600 for the first time in months.
The Health Ministry said on Saturday night that 611 cases were registered over the previous 24 hours, an increase of 32 cases over the previous day. It said the number of Covid-related deaths over the same period was 28.
As of Saturday, total infections and fatalities stood at 124,891 and 7,069 respectively since the epidemic first hit Egypt 10 months ago.
The second wave of the pandemic is continuing to make headlines in Egypt as celebrities and sports stars catch the virus. The latest public figure to contract the disease was Mohammed El Shareef, governor of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
Others include more than half of Egypt’s national football youth team. They tested positive after their arrival in Tunisia to take part in a five-nation qualifying tournament for the 2022 Cup of African Nations.
The infections meant the young Pharaohs forfeited their opening match last week against Libya. Egypt again could not play Tunisia on Friday because theydid not have enough healthy players to field. Egypt has lodged a petition with the organisers to reschedule the match and flew extra players to Tunisia to stand in for their sick teammates.
Egypt will be thrown out of the tournament if the Confederation of African Football rejects the request. The infected members of the squad have returned home by private plane and were quarantined at a hotel pending further tests.
Egypt last week received at least 100,000 doses of the vaccine Sinopharm and is in negotiations with the Chinese manufacturers to locally produce 20 million doses, according to authorities. No one has yet been vaccinated, but the government said front-line medical workers, the elderly and those suffering pre-existing conditions would take priority.