Starting 1 June, Egypt will extend the opening hours for commercial venues amid the coronavirus pandemic, ending a three-week decision to close these facilities at 9pm.
The country will, however, continue its ban on weddings in closed halls.
Heading a meeting for the higher committee tasked with managing the coronavirus crisis on Sunday, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said the decision allows the addressed facilities to open in accordance with the summer working hours.
The summer working hours of commercial shops and shopping malls are set from 7am to 11pm on weekdays and until midnight during weekends. Coffee shops and restaurants can operate from 5am to 1am throughout the week.
Madbouly said the government will apply fines on violating shops addressed by the decision. These shops will be immediately closed for two weeks and will be re-closed for a month if the violation is repeated, he added.
Cabinet Spokesman Nader Saad after the meeting told media that the fine will be EGP 4,000.
Weddings will be allowed in open areas only, Madbouly said, affirming the continuing ban on weddings in closed halls.
The meeting affirmed the continuation of applying all coronavirus preventive measures in significantly crowded public areas, Madbouly said.
These measures include imposing fines on violations and preventing cafes from offering shisha (hookah), he explained.
As per the committee’s decisions, the street celebrations known as ‘Mawlid’ as well as wedding and mourning marquees are banned, Madbouly said.
The decision to close shops and restaurants at 9pm came as Egypt suffered from a significant surge in coronavirus cases and deaths amid the third wave of the virus.
This corresponds with the state’s campaign to vaccinate citizens against the coronavirus, which started in January. The country has so far received millions of coronavirus doses of the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Importing new vaccines
Attending the meeting, head of the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement Bahaa El-Din Zidan noted that Egypt has contracted to receive 40 million doses of the Sputnik V and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Egypt has not imported any of these vaccines yet.
Zidan said Egypt contracted with an Emirati company that is permitted to import the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. As per the contract, Egypt will receive 20 million Sputnik V doses until the end of the year, he said.
Egypt also contracted with the African Bank to import 20 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses.
Egypt took official steps to locally produce the Sinovac and Sputnik V vaccines.
Earlier this month, the country received the first shipment of raw materials to produce Sinovac doses. The government plans to produce 40 million doses of the vaccine in the first year.
Health Minister Hala Zayed during the meeting said Egypt is expected to receive 2 million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines in the first half of June.
This is in addition to 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses set to be sent to the country through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), Zayed said.
The minister said 403 centres have been allocated nationwide to provide the vaccine to citizens, noting that around 110,000 citizens receive the vaccine per day.
Efforts are underway to open large vaccination centres nationwide, the minister noted.
Zayed said 26 centres have been allocated to vaccinate workers in the petroleum, electricity, aviation, railway, and public transportation sectors, in addition to workers at the Suez Canal.
The minister affirmed that all workers in the hotels of South Sinai and the Red Sea have been vaccinated, noting that the ministry is about to end vaccination of other related workers.
Zayed also ordered the vaccination of all dwellers of the cities of Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh after tourism workers are vaccinated.
Cabinet Spokesman Saad said 2.1 million citizens have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. He noted that the authorities seek to vaccinate 50 percent of citizens throughout the year.
Egypt’s population, according to the state’s statistical agency CAPMAS, has surpassed 101.8 million people.
For the weddings allowed in open areas only, Saad said a maximum of 300 people would be allowed to attend a ceremony.