Egypt's curfew to begin 8 pm starting Saturday for two weeks

Ahram Online , Saturday 30 May 2020

Wearing face masks in public places has become mandatory, with violators facing hefty fines

FILE PHOTO: Cars are stuck in a traffic jam before hours of curfew to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt, April 14, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

A nationwide curfew will begin at 8 pm instead of 5 pm starting Saturday for two weeks, marking a gradual reopening of a country heavily affected by the coronavirus repercussions.

Eid El-Fitr religious holiday saw an extension of curfew hours, beginning at 5 pm, and a full suspension of public transportation to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Despite the stricter restrictions last week, Egypt has detected a new daily record of 1,289 cases on Friday to reach over 22,082 with 879 deaths.

Malls and shops will be allowed to reopen all week starting Saturday until 5 pm after a full closure last week.

Some businesses like coffee shops, sports clubs and gyms will remain closed, however, and violators will be subject to a fine of up to EGP 4,000 and/or imprisonment.

Cairo's underground metro resumed operations on Saturday, with trains running until around 7:45 pm. The start of operating hours remains unchanged at 6 am.

Before the curfew, the regular operating hours of the Cairo metro were between 5:15 am to 1 am.

Around 81 trains will be operated daily on the three main metro lines and additional trains could be operated to shorten the time between trains to three minutes, down from four minutes to reduce Cairo metro overcrowding amid the outbreak, the transportation ministry said on Friday.

Wearing face masks in public places has become mandatory since Saturday, with violators facing hefty fines.

Face masks are mandatory for workers or visitors at markets, shops, banks, as well as governmental or private institutions until further notice, according to a decree by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly earlier this month.

The decree also states that commuters taking public or private transportation must also wear face masks.

Those who do not not wear a mask will be subject to a fine up to EGP 4,000.

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 twice since. Other measures include suspending air traffic, shuttering schools and universities, closing mosques and churches and banning public gatherings.

Despite the restrictions, the infection rate has continued to spike, sparking fears that an ailing medical sector could be overwhelmed as cases among medical staff continue to increase.

Egypt appears adamant to gradually re-open the economy to recover the main sources of foreign currency, including tourism and remittances from Egyptian expats.

The country has signalled in the past few weeks that it is looking to pull back on some of the heavy restrictions introduced in recent months, and has urged the public to maintain social distancing and other preventive measures when these changes are made.

In recent weeks, Egypt has resumed a number of governmental services, including licensing vehicles, as well as some court sessions.

Starting Monday, administrative services, including those handling civil status, passports, emigration and nationality, work permits, and those at the criminal evidence department will be resumed.

As of mid-June, the state will announce a gradual resumption of several activities, including sporting clubs and youth centres, while following precautionary measures against the virus. This may also include the gradual reopening of places of worship.

The government will also consider the possibility of a gradual return of in-house dining at restaurants with strict measures later in June.

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