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Egypt sets up hotlines for psychological support during coronavirus shutdown

Ahram Online , Tuesday 31 Mar 2020
A man uses a mobile phone in front of the Egyptian Ministry of Health following an outbreak of the c
A man uses a mobile phone in front of the Egyptian Ministry of Health following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt March 26, 2020. (Reuters)

Egypt's health ministry has set up two hotlines to offer psychological support for Egyptians to help them overcome anxiety over the spread of the coronavirus.

Two telephone numbers (080-8880700 and 0220816831) have been set up by the ministry’s mental health department to receive calls from Egyptians to “offer psychological support to citizens staying at home,” health ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed said.

Many Egyptians are working from home or staying under home quarantine to avoid the risk of virus transmissions.

Megahed offered some advice to help people, especially the elderly and children, overcome fear and panic caused by the spread of the coronavirus, while urging people to stay home and maintain social distancing to avoid being infected.

He advised people to continue to communicate with family and friends via phone or social media websites, and said that meditation and breathing exercises help alleviate anxiety.

“It is important to maintain a healthy and balanced nutrition program, get enough sleep, do exercise, and quit smoking and drinking alcohol,” Megahed said.

For kids, it is very important to maintain their daily routine and help them study within pre-set time tables, while explaining the reality of the situation to them in a simple way and without exposing them to news or information that could affect their psychological state.

He warned that the elderly, especially those suffering chronic diseases, are most vulnerable to the negative effects of anxiety and pressure, specially amid a sense of isolation and a change in their routines.

A team of 150 mental health specialists have received online training on providing remote psychological support for coronavirus patients and their families, as well as to medical teams in quarantine hospitals, head of the ministry’s Mental Health Secretariat General Mona Abdel-Maqsoud said.

Around 1,500 psychiatrists, social workers and nursing staff have submitted requests to receive the training, she said, urging all specialists in mental health, community initiatives and psychiatric departments in Egyptian universities to participate in the online training.

Egypt has so far registered 656 coronavirus cases, including 41 deaths. Of the total infected, 150 have since recovered and been released from quarantine hospitals.

Last week, Egypt declared a two-week nighttime curfew from 7 pm to 6 am to contain the spread of the virus. Authorities have also shut cafes, gyms and sporting clubs in a bid to limit large gatherings. Restaurants are open only for home deliveries.

The country also extended an ongoing suspension of schools and universities that was due to end later this month for an additional two weeks. International flights, which were halted on 19 March, will remain grounded until mid-April.

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