File photo: Egyptian security forces cordon off roads during curfew hours as prevention measures due to the coronavirus pandemic
Egypt extended on Thursday a nationwide night-time curfew by two more weeks until the end of the holy month of Ramadan, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said, in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus which has infected over 7000 people and claimed 469 lives in the country.
In a televised briefing, the prime minister said that the hours of the curfew would remain unchanged from 9pm to 6am.
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 two times since.
Initially, it began at 7pm, but it was later moved back to 8pm then to 9pm at the beginning of the Islamic month.
The same measures introduced over the past period will remain in place during the next two weeks, Madbouly said.
He said that Egypt hasn't witnessed any shortage in commodities or a hike in prices over the course of the past three months, as opposed to many other countries, due to the country's keenness to balance out the coronavirus precautionary measures and production.
The "complete lockdown" experiment adopted by other countries has taken a heavy toll on their economy, he added.
Locally, from the first moment, the government insisted on a balance between the health of the citizen and the rotation of the economy's wheel, Madbouly noted.
"Moreover, the state introduced financial packages to facilitate and delay the repayment of loans, taxes and even social insurance to maintain the economy and the employment," he said, adding that the state has also launched an economic aid programme that includes the three-month allowances for those with irregular employment.
"As a result, the country has incurred great economic burdens through this period and the government has done its best for the citizens to remain unaffected by the pandemic," Madbouly said.
He said it would have been natural to put forward an austerity or a contracted budget for the next year but the government proposed a promising one. It included rises of EGP 100 billion in wages and pensions.
He noted that the country's investment budget for the coming fiscal year will surge to EGP 230 billion, up from EGP 140 billion last year.
"This move was necessary to invest, expand, and provide job opportunities," Madbouly said, "because of the negative impact of the pandemic on the private sector."
The budget aims to support the private sector and generate the largest possible number of jobs, Madbouly said. The state needs to provide between 800,000 and 900,000 job opportunities yearly to accommodate the new graduates.
The more the production wheel is halted, the heavier the economic consequences become, Madbouly stressed, adding that "Egyptians are to be aware of that."
"The government did its best to delay the highly contagious virus outbreak... although the [coronavirus infection] numbers have started to increase, it is still within the capabilities of the state," he noted.
"It is not about the curfew hours but more about our behaviour," he said, responding to calls of tightening the curfew measures.
The prime minister revealed that the interior ministry has drawn up reports against 4,000 citizens who had violated the coronavirus restrictions only yesterday.
He called upon citizens to stick to the precautionary measures to protect their lives.
The government will announce prior to the end of Ramadan all the measures that will be followed afterwards to practise different activities whether in open or closed spaces, penalising the violators, be they individuals or facilities.