Though in recess until 12 April, parliament moved this week to coordinate with the government to help stem a mass spread of the coronavirus in Egypt.
MPs also drafted legislation that aims to extend a helping hand to low-income citizens seriously affected by the coronavirus measures.
Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, head of the Wafd Party and chairman of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, drafted a law that obligates citizens to donate a part of their monthly income to the fund Tahya Masr (Long Live Egypt). The national fund is currently directing resources towards the fight against the virus.
“Those who receive a monthly salary of more than LE5,000 will donate five per cent, those getting more than LE10,000 will donate 10 per cent, more than LE15,000 will donate 15 per cent, and those with more than LE20,000 will donate 20 per cent,” Abu Shoka said, arguing that his draft bill is not the first of its kind in Egypt’s modern history. “Following the 1967 War, state employees decided to donate part of their salaries to buy weapons for the army,” Abu Shoka said.
Haitham Al-Hariri, a leftist MP, also drafted a law that aims to describe doctors who die from the coronavirus while treating those infected as “martyrs”, and as such their families deserve to receive substantial monetary compensation.
Many MPs interviewed by Al-Ahram Weekly expect that parliament will postpone its plenary meetings for another two weeks. “Parliament is scheduled to meet next Sunday, 12 April, but I think that the meetings will be postponed for two more weeks,” independent MP Osama Sharshar said.
Mustafa Bakri, another independent MP, said “in light of the growing number of infections, I think that the government will decide on Wednesday to extend the curfew and other precautionary measures for another two weeks.”
As a result, parliament will be also forced to postpone its meetings or seek other options such as using video conferencing or ask MPs to assemble in more than one meeting hall, Bakri said.
Meanwhile, a statement issued by parliament this week said that it is closely following the coronavirus situation in the country and the preventative measures that have so far been taken by the government to contain it.
Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal has directed the chairs of parliament’s committees, each in their own field, to avoid holding meetings, in line with the precautionary measures taken to contain the spread of the virus.
“Chairs of the committees, however, will be required to study complaints sent by citizens and laws proposed by MPs, as well as proposals suggested to help those who have been seriously affected by the precautionary measures, particularly seasonal workers and low-income bracket citizens,” said the statement, adding that the chairs of parliament’s committees will also submit weekly and periodic reports to the speaker on the recommendations that should be taken in this respect.
The statement indicated that the head of parliament’s committees will also be required to stay in direct contact with Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Alaa Fouad and other cabinet ministers to ensure that the government is keen on implementing the recommendations proposed by parliament to contain the coronavirus and help the needed affected by the measures taken to contain it.
The statement said Abdel-Aal expressed appreciation for the measures that have so far been taken and declared his support for the medical teams working day and night to contain the virus. “Parliament also expresses thanks to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi for raising bonuses given to doctors, nurses, ambulance workers, and administrative officials,” added the statement.
“We all should take the matter very seriously because we are all in one boat,” the statement said, also urging citizens not to believe rumours and ration the use of medical resources. “Success in winning the war against this dangerous coronavirus will largely depend on our personal and collective discipline, and every citizen should know that each has a role to play in containing the spread of the virus.
“This is necessary so that the state does not resort to taking additional measures to prevent an outbreak of the virus in Egypt,” the statement added.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly