Egypt will have to coexist with the coronavirus pandemic starting from June, cabinet spokesman Nader Saad said on Thursday, as the country continues to push forward with efforts to open the economy after the end of Ramadan.
In a phone interview with a state television channel, Saad said that the government is hoping it can “start a new period” by 1 June, adding that the government will review its position on restrictions imposed over the pandemic before the Eid Al-Fitr holiday, which is set to begin on 23 May.
Saad also stressed the necessity of a “gradual return to normal life, but with certain preventive measures,” especially as not all countries can continue imposing lockdowns until a vaccine is developed, due to the economic repercussions.
He said preventive measures during the “gradual” reopening would include specific conditions, such as the mandatory wearing of face masks.
“A return of activities or facilities will not be the same before the pandemic. Certain measures, including face masks, would be obligatory in cinemas and theatres, for example, or at governmental buildings,” he said.
“Face masks are not luxury now. They are a basic necessity given the pandemic,” he said.
Upon reopening, cinemas and theatres would be obliged to reduce their capacity, Saad said, citing the move as an example of measures set to be undertaken to “coexist with the pandemic.”
His statements came a day after Egypt extended a nationwide night-time curfew by two more weeks, until the end of the fasting month.
The curfew was first introduced in March as part of a series of measures to curtail the spread of the virus, and has been extended twice since. Other measures include the shuttering of schools, universities and places of worship, and limitations on public gatherings.
The virus has so far infected nearly 8,000 people and claimed 482 lives since it arrived in Egypt in mid-February.
Saad also said that violators of the yet-to-be determined measures will be at risk of punishment.
“There will two kinds of penalties: one for bodies or institutions that do not abide by the measures in terms of allowing a maximum capacity of people in one place or supplying disinfectants, and one for citizens if they don’t heed the wearing of masks,” he said.
Egypt has signalled in the past few weeks that it is looking to pull back on some of the heavy restrictions introduced in recent months, and has urged people to maintain social distancing and other preventive measures when these changes are made.
In recent weeks it has resumed a number of governmental services, including licensing for new vehicles, as well as some court sessions.