President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has told Egyptians to exercise and eat healthily to raise their immunity against the Covid-19 outbreak that has claimed nearly 700 lives in the country.
Mr El Sisi also sought to reassure the public about his government’s handling of the outbreak of the coronavirus. “Be reassured, the issue is being handled scientifically and professionally,” he said.
The Egyptian leader’s comments came just hours before the Health Ministry announced on Thursday that 774 new Covid-19 cases had been diagnosed over the previous 24 hours. It was the fifth consecutive record daily increase and took the total number of confirmed cases to 15,003, of which 696 were fatal.
Coronavirus in the Middle East
Egypt's numbers remain relatively low for a country of 100 million people, but many fear that the rising number of infections could overwhelm its healthcare system.
Adding to fears of a wider spread of Covid-19 is the casual attitude adopted by some Egyptians towards precautions, although social distancing, strict hygiene practices and healthy eating could be beyond the reach of the country’s poor majority who live in crowded conditions and need to go out to work daily to survive.
“The growing number [of cases] is a natural development. Could they be fewer? Yes. Could they be slightly higher? Yes. It all depends on how we conduct ourselves rather than the efficiency of the health system in Egypt,” said Mr El Sisi.
“The numbers will go down if we pay attention and do not deal with the issue complacently,” he said.
“People, no matter who or how old they are, must exercise to strengthen their immunity and they must eat more healthy food, too,” said the 65-year-old Egyptian leader, who is known to work out and cycle regularly.
Egypt has tightened lockdown restrictions for next week's Eid Al Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The start of the existing 9pm-6am curfew will be brought forward to 5pm, all public transport will be shut, and stores, public parks and malls will be closed.