Key points: Egypt’s three-stage plan to coexist with the coronavirus

Sama Osama , Mohamed Soliman , Friday 15 May 2020

A reader's guide to the government's plan to deal with COVID-19; what will open and what will remain closed?

File Photo: A member of ? medical team sprays disinfectant on a building under construction in the New Administrative Capital (NAC), east of Cairo, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Egypt May 6, 2020. Picture taken May 6, 2020 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's health ministry has set out a three-stage plan that will see life gradually return to normal as the country learns to live with the coronavirus.

Ahram Online lays out some of the details of the plan below.

What are the three stages?

The first stage entails “strict measures” to prevent a resurgence of the virus. The second stage comprises “medium measures.” The third stage includes relaxed, continuing measures.

When will each stage start?

The first stage should come into effect “very soon,” although the ministry did not specify further. The cabinet spokesman said recently that the gradual reopening of businesses would be effected from 1 June, although hotels were allowed to reopen at reduced capacity starting Friday. 

The first stage will end when Egypt sees a decline in new cases over two consecutive weeks.

The second stage then follows and will last for four weeks. After that, the third stage will last until further instructions are announced, or until the World Health Organization (WHO) lowers its global risk assessment.

What are the most important measures in the first stage?

• Wearing masks will be mandatory to enter businesses or malls or to board public transport.
• Temperatures will be taken outside some buildings and public transport.
• Hand sanitisers must be installed at the entrance and exit of any businesses, malls or shops.
• People with mild symptoms will self-isolate themselves at home.
• An entire carriage of each metro train must be dedicated for seniors and pregnant women.
• Certain recreational facilities including cinemas, theatres, and cafes, in addition to gym and celebration venues, will remain closed.

What are the most important measures in the second stage?

• Wearing masks in certain buildings and on public transport will remain mandatory.
• Workplaces and malls must provide hand sanitisers at entrances and exits.
• All facilities and shops are to work at medium capacity.
• All entertainment venues will remain closed.

What are the most important measures in the third stage?

The restrictive measures are to be lifted, and replaced with moderate measures.
• Wearing masks will remain mandatory for certain kinds of activities but will be lifted in some cases.
• Crowding must be avoided and good ventilation systems provided.
• Health requirements must be abided by at hotels and restaurants.

• Any WHO-approved effective and safe vaccine will be provided, as per priorities set by the health ministry.

How will malls operate under the plan?

Malls and shops are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity throughout all three stages. Their food courts should be closed during the first phase but will be allowed to operate at half capacity during the second phase. Masks must be worn to enter malls.

When will restaurants be allowed to reopen?

Restaurants are only allowed to provide delivery service through the three phases, with the exception of restaurants in hotels (see below).

When can cinemas, theatres, cafes, gyms and clubs operate again?

They will remain closed throughout the outbreak.

When can schools and universities open again?

They will remain closed throughout the outbreak.

What else will remain totally closed during the pandemic?

Funeral services will remain suspended for the duration.

Wedding celebrations and other events involving large gatherings will remain closed for the duration, except at hotels (see below).

What are major precautions to be taken at companies?

No one will be allowed to enter businesses if they are not wearing a mask, and this will last throughout the three phases. Workplace canteens will be closed, while gathering and entertainment areas can only open in the third phase.

What precautions must be adopted at workplaces and on public transport?

• Through the first two phases, wearing masks in these locations is mandatory. More trains and public buses will be deployed to prevent crowding and more ticket windows will be made available.
• Passengers are advised to rely on online tickets.
• Normal air conditioning devices are not advised during the first and second phases, unless certain types of filters are used. They can be used in the third phase, however.

What about factories and construction sites?

• Construction is the only sector that can work 24 hours a day during the three stages, even during curfew hours. Workplaces must operate with a maximum capacity of 30 percent for every shift in the first stage, however, then 50 percent during the second stage.
• In the third stage, construction workplaces will operate at full capacity.

What are measures taken by hotels under the plan?

• Hotels must have a clinic with resident doctor, in addition to disinfection materials.
• Non-Egyptian guests must undergo rapid coronavirus tests before checking in.
• Foreign guests coming from overseas must have a negative PCR test document completed 48 hours before boarding the plane.
• Guests must be registered online or using single-use pens and will have their temperatures measured each time they enter resorts.
• Parties or weddings, or any kind of overnight activities are not allowed throughout the first and second phase. No information was given about the third phase.
• Each hotel will work at a maximum capacity of 50 percent of employees during the first and second phases.
• Hotel restaurants can only serve pre-set menus and buffet services are banned in the first phase. During the second stage, they will be allowed to provide normal menu service, although they must work at 50 percent capacity. Guests’ temperatures should be measured before entering and chairs should be placed one metre apart.

When will hotels resume diving activities?

During the first stage, but with certain requirements such as the sterilisation of diving regulators, snorkelling masks, and buoyancy control devices.

When will cruise and yachts resume activities?

They will begin in the first phase, but must accommodate a lower number of tourists.

When will celebration venues, nightclubs and casinos at hotels be allowed to operate?

They are not allowed to open during the first and second phases. The health ministry did not say whether they would be allowed to open in the third phase. 

What happens if cases increase again during the second or third stage?

The country will go back to the first stage.

What is happening to the curfew?

The nationwide curfew currently begins at 9pm. The ministry did not provide details on if and how it would be amended during the different stages.

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