Egypt to take decision this week on reopening houses of worship, restaurants

Ahram Online , Tuesday 2 Jun 2020

A government spokesman said the religious endowments ministry has been preparing mosques to reopen

A woman wearing a protective face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walks next to a wall painted with colors of the Egypt's flag (Photo: Reuters)

The Egyptian government will take a decision on the reopening of houses of worship, restaurants, clubs and cinemas by the end of this week, a spokesman said yesterday.

Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad told Al-Hadath channel that the government is expected to take a decision on the reopening of houses of worship, cinemas, sports and social clubs and restaurants after a meeting this week of the committee set up to manage the coronavirus crisis.

Saad said the religious endowments ministry is “well-prepared” for the resumption of prayers in mosques, and that the cabinet would probably announce the re-opening of mosques by the end of the week.

Egypt suspended prayers at mosques in March in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The Coptic Orthodox Church, the country’s largest denomination, has also closed its churches.

It said on Saturday that it would extend the suspension of services and activities at its churches until 27 June, when it would reassess the situation.

Government spokesman Saad said that the religious endowments ministry, which runs mosques nationwide, has prepared around 320,000 metres of new carpeting for mosques, as well as disinfectants, and has been installing instructions and floor signs to allow for social distancing.

He added that all mosque bathrooms and areas for wudu, a ritual cleansing that worshippers complete before prayer, will by remain shut, and congregants will be obliged to wear masks and bring their own prayer mats.

According to Saad, the government is also expected to discuss this week the reopening of sports and social clubs, cinemas, and the resumption of in-house dining in restaurants.

Saad said that restaurants have been suffering financially as a result of the crisis. He also said that if they are allowed to open they will have to adhere to restrictive measures and will not be able to operate at full capacity.

Local authorities will supervise their commitment to the precautionary measures, and violators will have their licenses suspended, he said.

Restaurants are currently only allowed to provide delivery or takeout services.

A gradual resumption of international flights will also be announced this week or next week, according to Saad, to take place either late June or early July.

The spokesman said the government is moving towards the gradual reopening of the economy despite the daily increase in coronavirus cases; however, the speed of the reopening process would be revisited at the next meeting, given the current circumstances.

“There is no conflict between the increase in cases and the gradual reopening of economy, as long as that reopening is disciplined,” Saad said.

Egypt has recorded 26,384 coronavirus cases so far, and 1,005 deaths.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Monday that the country is expected to witness a surge in the number of new cases in the next two weeks.

Egypt has been looking in the past few weeks to pull back on some of the heavy restrictions introduced in recent months, while urging people to maintain social distancing and other preventive measures when these changes are made.

Hotels that have passed strict new safety licensing measures have been allowed to reopen to domestic tourists at 50 percent occupancy rates.

Many governmental services have also resumed, as have court sessions.

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