Coronavirus: Egypt outbreak sees fourth day of record new cases

Continuing rise of infections does not bode well for Egypt

People look through the gates of the closed El Sayeda Zainab Mosque, as they are unable to attend prayers inside the mosque due to a night-time curfew amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Power, the holiest night for Muslims, in Cairo, Egypt May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
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The number of Covid-19 infections continued to surge in Egypt on Wednesday, with the Health Ministry reporting the fourth consecutive one-day high for infections.

The ministry said in its daily report that 745 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, the highest one-day number since the first case was identified in February.

There were 720, 535 and 510 on the previous three days.

Wednesday’s figure for infections takes the number of Covid-19 cases to 14,229. The official death toll stands at 680 as of Wednesday night.

The continuing rise in infections does not bode well for Egypt, where the heath service has been battered by decades of mismanagement and negligence, despite recent additional funding and attempts at reform.

Fuelling the chances of a wider spread is the casual attitude of most Egyptians towards the threat of the disease.

The outbreak of Covid-19 was discussed in a meeting  on Wednesday between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli.

Mr Madbouli also discussed the crisis in video conference meetings with his Cabinet and provincial governors.

He said his Cabinet on Wednesday agreed to dock 1 per cent of the net salaries of state employees to soften the economic effects of Covid-19.

Those retired would contribute 0.5 per cent of their pensions. The deductions will begin on July 1 and continue for a year.

Mr Madbouli said Cairo and its twin city Giza had more Covid-19 cases than any other provinces in Egypt..

The two cities are home to almost 30 per cent of the country’s population, with many of their residents living in densely populated neighbourhoods.

Egypt’s government has been trying to strike a balance between protecting people from the disease and preventing the economy from tanking.

It has encouraged the return to business as usual but with protective measures in place.

A plea made last week by the doctors’ union for a complete lockdown until the end of May to contain the outbreak was ignored by the government.

Its critics say it is sacrificing lives for the sake of the economy.

The government maintains that Egyptians must learn to live with the virus.

Without a vaccine, it says anything else will lead to the collapse of the economy, wiping out hard-won gains made after years of austerity and harsh reforms.

But an almost complete lockdown is due to start on Sunday and will remain in force until May 29 to coincide with the Eid Al Fitr holidays at the end of Ramadan.
During that period, a curfew from 5pm to 6am will be in place, public parks and beaches will be closed and all public transport halted.

Private tour buses will be banned from travelling between provinces and shops apart from pharmacies, supermarkets and bakeries will be shut.

Malls, restaurants and cafes will also be closed.