Egypt steps up enforcement of Covid face-mask rule

Fine of 4,000 pounds to be strictly applied as daily Covid-19 case count creeps higher

Customers buy handmade sweets at a street market ahead of Mawlid al-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, in Cairo, Egypt October 28, 2020, Picture taken October 28, 2020. Egypt REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
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Fearing a “second wave” of the coronavirus epidemic, Egypt is tightening enforcement of preventive measures to avoid another potentially devastating lockdown, warning Egyptians that authorities intended to diligently collect the 4,000-pound ($255) fine for not wearing a mask in public indoor spaces.

The tougher approach by the government comes as the daily number of new Covid-19 infections edges higher, crossing the 200-mark last week after averaging 150-170 cases since early September. The daily death toll has remained under 20, according to Health Ministry figures,.

The government has repeatedly warned in recent weeks that tough measures will be introduced if Egyptians continue to neglect preventive measures to contain the spread of the pandemic. A second lockout after the one in force between March and June this year would badly hurt segments of society, it said.

The government has singled out shopping malls, public transport, communal taxis and government offices as priorities for its zero tolerance policy regarding the wearing of masks.

The Health Ministry reported 224 new coronavirus infections and 14 deaths on Friday, raising the number of Covid-19 cases since February to 108,754, and the death toll to 6,343. The government acknowledges that the actual numbers are much higher, but the official figures are widely thought to be reliable indicators of the spread of the disease.

At least a half dozen members of the entertainment industry, including well-known actors, announced that they tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days after they attended an international film festival in the Red Sea resort of El Gouna. Organizers have said social distancing and wearing masks were diligently observed during the popular event, but some images have emerged of crowded auditoriums during film screenings and packed after-parties thrown by sponsors.

Another international film festival is scheduled to be held in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, between December 2 and 10.