Coronavirus: Egypt lifts lockdown and reopens cafes, mosques and churches

Venues can operate at 25 per cent capacity but people are not allowed in religious buildings on weekends

FILE PHOTO: A woman buys vegetables from a cafe transformed into a vegetable shop as cafes have been shut following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

Egypt on Tuesday significantly eased regulations against the spread of the coronavirus, cancelling the overnight lockdown, reopening mosques and churches and allowing patrons back at restaurants and cafes, but with limited capacity.

Cinemas and theatres will also reopen, but beaches and public parks will remain shut.

Mosques and churches will not be allowed to hold congregational rituals such as Friday prayers or Mass.

Only weekday prayers are allowed in both, provided social distancing rules are observed, the government said.

Restaurants, cafes, cinemas and theatres are allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity, while stores would remain open until 9pm.

The latest orders reflect the government’s strategy of gradually reopening the country to avoid an economic meltdown while seeking to protect the population.

Until a vaccine is developed, authorities want Egyptians to learn to live with the coronavirus while taking precautions such social distancing, diligent hygiene practices and wearing masks in public.

Despite Tuesday’s announcement, the daily number of new Covid-19 cases continues to hover well above 1,000.

It is a worrying trend that officials say would only last until the end of June before the curve begins to level off and flatten by mid-July.

The Health Ministry says 56,809 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded, of whom 2,278 have died.

But the number of actual cases is thought to be much higher because thousands of Egyptians have contracted mild cases of the disease and are treated at home without a test.

FILE PHOTO: A view of a closed cinema during Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim festival marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt, May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo

Many also contract the disease but do not receive treatment through state health care.

Others contract the disease but do not realise they have it. Critics also say not enough testing was being carried out.

The government says it has dealt with the pandemic professionally and transparently.

Like Egypt, Iran is still trying to come to grips with the virus. It reported 121 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, its highest daily toll in over two months.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told a briefing that the new fatalities brought the overall toll to 9,863.

That is Iran's highest single-day fatality rate since April 11, when 125 deaths were recorded.

Iran recorded a drop in its daily deaths in early May, but there has been a rise in recent weeks.

There has been scepticism at home and abroad about the country's official Covid-19 figures, with concerns that the actual toll could be much higher.

Iran has not imposed a mandatory lockdown on people to stop the virus's spread, but it closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement between the country's 31 provinces in March.

The government progressively lifted restrictions from April to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.


Gallery: Coronavirus around the Middle East