The total number of Egyptians repatriated from abroad amid the coronavirus restrictions is expected to exceed 16,000, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Wednesday.
The number of Egyptian nationals stuck overseas amid lockdowns caused by the global pandemic are “very large” when compared to nationals of other countries, Madbouly was cited by a cabinet statement as saying.
“The number of returnees during this period is expected to reach over 16,000 Egyptians,” he said, adding that authorities are working to prepare accommodation venues and medical measures to follow up on the conditions of returnees, who are put into a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The cabinet had said earlier that the government would cover the cost of those staying at university hostels, while those willing to spend their quarantine period at designated hotels in the Redd Sea resort of Marsa Alam will have to pay for their stay.
Egypt is hoping to return all stranded Egyptians before the religious Eid Al-Fitr holiday, which begins around 23 May, officials say.
Mabdouly’s remarks on Wednesday came during a cabinet meeting via video conference in which he thanked all ministries and concerned authorities for efforts made to bring Egyptian nationals back home.
Egypt has suspended international passenger flights since March, but exceptional flights have since been operated to bring back Egyptians stranded abroad or to allow tourists to leave.
El-Sisi vowed last month to bring those stranded overseas, which he estimated at around 3,500 at the time, “at the earliest opportunity”, and information ministry Osama Heikal said earlier this month that authorities “will not leave a single Egyptian seeking to return outside the country's borders.”
During the same meeting, the prime minister said a $2.77 billion loan Egypt received earlier this week from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would help stabilise Egypt’s foreign reserves, which have fallen to $37 billion from more than $45.5 billion at the end of February
Egypt said it had asked for the financing to tackle the economic fallout of the coronavirus that has hurt tourism and other key sectors.
Mabdouly also referred to a decision earlier this week by Rating agency Moody’s maintaining Egypt’s foreign and local currency issuer rating at B2 and keeping the outlook stable, saying it reflects international institutions’ “continued confidence in the ability of the Egyptian economy to positively handle the coronavirus crisis.”
On Tuesday, Egypt surpassed 10,000 coronavirus cases almost three months after the country detected its first COVID-19 case in mid-February.