Egypt’s SSCHR reviews national response towards coronavirus pandemic

Ahram Online , Monday 6 Apr 2020

Members of a medical team spray disinfectant on a street as a precaution to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Shubra El Kheima in Al Qalyubia, Egypt, April 4, 2020. REUTERS

The Egyptian Supreme Standing Committee for Human Rights (SSCHR) issued a report on the national efforts to preserve human rights amid the coronavirus crisis, which the committee said the implications of which pose a grave threat to the rights to life, health, physical integrity, and the exercise of several socio-economic rights.

The report said the daily statistical updates transparently announced by the Egyptian government concerning the numbers of infected cases, recovered cases and deaths reflect the seriousness of the efforts made by all state agencies to control the spread of the virus and deal with the health, economic and social repercussions of the current crisis.

Egypt has so far registered 1,173 coronavirus cases, including 78 fatalities, while 247 have fully recovered and left isolation hospitals.

"Since the beginning of the crisis, the state has established a supreme committee responsible for managing it. These multiple efforts earned the praise of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The organisation's mission said that Egypt is making tremendous efforts to control COVID-19, in terms of early detection, testing, isolation, quarantine, tracking of contacts and referral of positive cases," the report said.

The SSCHR report said the Egyptian government continues to exert great efforts to allocate additional human and financial resources to contain the pandemic, highlighting that the Ministry of Health and Population devised a plan to respond to the novel coronavirus by allocating a number of hospitals to quarantine positive cases in every single governorate, in addition to increasing the number of laboratories and boosting their capabilities.

"In the wake of the COVID-19/coronavirus global spread with massive increases in the number of infections and deaths, the Egyptian authorities have pre-emptively taken a number of progressive precautionary and preventive measures as part of a comprehensive scheme involving several steps to mitigate the spread of the virus at the national level and to efficiently respond to positive cases," the report added.

"Governmental and public service premises, train stations, streets and squares in all governorates are fully disinfected. All flights are suspended at all Egyptian airports from 19 March to 15 April. Egyptians who returned to Egypt after being stranded abroad are quarantined as an exceptional measure," the committee said.

"During the pre-flight-ban period, all arriving passengers were examined and those who tested positive were quarantined at airports, sea and land ports, while a curfew was imposed throughout the country from 7pm till 6am, from 25 March to 15 April, with the exception of emergency services and salient facilities such as water and electricity companies," it added.

The report affirmed that a number of villages were quarantined in Minya, the Red Sea, Menoufiya and Port Said as a preventive measure to prevent the spread of the pandemic.

“The roads leading to the villages are closed for two weeks starting 28 March. Strict prevention measures are adopted there until the recovery of all the cases," the report added.

On education, the report said, “despite the current emergency that begged school and university attendance suspension to limit the virus spread, the Egyptian government took a number of measures to ensure the successful completion of the educational process."

To ensure a safe and healthy working environment, the state granted leave to civil servants, especially women who care for children under 12 years of age and employees with chronic diseases. Moreover, the state decided to reduce the number of workers at governmental bodies whose work is mainly administrative and has no real impact on citizens’ lives or does not involve strategic or vital services.

Regarding the informal workforce, the Ministry of Manpower on 22 March decided to disburse one-off EGP 500  grants through an automated system on its website to alleviate the financial pressure on labourers who lost their jobs.

On the promotion of economic rights, the government has taken a number of measures and initiatives to stimulate the national economy and avert the serious repercussions sustained by businesses to preserve the right to a decent standard of living, the report said, referring to the allocation of EGP 1 billion to finance the COVID-19 response plan.
“ Other steps and measures included reducing natural gas prices to $4.5 per million calorific units, electricity prices for ultra-high, high and medium voltage factories in the amount of EGP 0.1 per kw/hour; and freezing electricity prices for other industrial uses for the next 3-5 years,” the report said.

It also announced the postponement of the payment of the real estate tax due by factories and touristic facilities for three months, allowing the payment of the due real estate tax for previous periods on six monthly instalments, and foregoing administrative forfeitures on non-compliant taxpayers in return for paying 10 percent of the due tax and resettling their status by dispute settlement committees.

"The Egyptian government also returned Egyptians stranded in other countries who couldn't return to Egypt after the travel ban was imposed. The returnees were quarantined to protect them, their families, and society," the report added.

The report also referred to Egypt’s international cooperation in response to Covid-19. Egypt sent food and medical aid to a number of countries plagued by the pandemic, including China, Italy, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The report said Egypt is a regular participant, including through the WHO, in all activities related to the exchange of experience and information to respond to the pandemic.

Egypt recorded more than 1,000 coronavirus cases on Saturday. Despite the measures the country has taken, the average daily infection rate has risen in the last few days.

Last week, Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly expected an increase in positive cases. However, he stressed that Egypt is still in the middle phase of the virus outbreak and has not reached the dangerous, third phase, which officials in the country previously marked it by surpassing 1,000 infected cases.


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