Egypt's House of Representatives approved Wednesday legislative amendments drafted by Mohamed Al-Amary, head of parliament's health affairs committee, and endorsed by 60 MPs aiming to help the state fight epidemic diseases.
According to the draft law's explanatory note, it aims to help Egypt's health authorities take greater precautionary measures to contain the outbreak of coronavirus or any other epidemic diseases.
According to Al-Amary, the law is an amendment to the law regulating precautionary measures on the prevention of epidemic diseases — Law No 137 of 1958.
"The amended law aims to reinforce the capacity of Egypt's health authorities in preventing a mass outbreak of epidemic diseases which present significant danger to public health, such as the coronavirus," said Al-Amary.
"The legislative amendment represents a quick response from MPs who want to contain coronavirus infections in a more effective way.”
According to Al-Amary, recent weeks have shown that the health ministry is in urgent need of greater powers, to help it effectively contain the outbreak.
"As a result, I proposed amending articles 25 and 26 of the law on the prevention of epidemic diseases, and also adding three new articles to achieve the objectives required in this respect," said Al-Amary.
"First, the law will grant the health minister or health authorities in general the power to make it obligatory for citizens to wear face masks and follow other preventive measures outside the home, once the health minister finds it necessary to help stem the spread of the epidemic," he said.
The draft law states that citizens who refuse to wear face masks outside the home will be fined, in line with rules and measures to be levied by the minister of health in this respect.
"The health minister will be allowed to compel citizens to wear face masks and other preventive requirements outside homes whenever he/she finds this necessary," said Al-Amary, adding that “Decrees in this respect will determine the conditions and rules regulating this matter." "Citizens who violate this will be fined an amount ranging from EGP 300 to EGP 5,000,” amendments to article 20 state.
The draft law also allows health authorities take the measures necessary to handle the bodies of citizens who die because of epidemic diseases. "The law will state that the bodies of dead patients be buried under health supervision and in a way that prevents the spread of the epidemic and respects the dignity of the dead and religious and social traditions at the same time," said Al-Amary.
The two new articles aim at toughening penalties for violating the amended law.
Citizens who violate article 23 regarding the rules of burying the corpses of citizens who die because of epidemic diseases, such as the coronavirus, or who block or postpone burial procedures, will be fined an amount ranging from EGP 5,000 to EGP 10,000.