Egypt has relaxed Covid-19 restrictions after recording one of the lowest rates of infections since the start of the pandemic.
Egypt recorded a daily average of eight coronavirus infections over the previous week — from 30 April to 6 May — and a daily average of four coronavirus-related deaths, the Ministry of Health reported on Saturday.
Egypt’s Ministry of Religious Endowments has announced the full re-opening of mosques and shrines nationwide after two years of coronavirus restrictions, starting 8 May. According to a statement, the decision allows for the return of religious and Quranic recitation lessons in mosques, and the opening of Islamic shrines to visitors outside prayer times.
Commercial shops and centres are now allowed to operate between 7am to 11pm instead of 7am to 10pm, and restaurants can open from 5am to 1am instead of 5am to 12am.
Supermarkets, groceries, bakeries, and pharmacies are allowed to operate around the clock.
Though the measures have been welcomed by many members of the public, some employees are less satisfied.
“After a long period of a hybrid work system we became accustomed to flexible working hours. It is frustrating now to have to attend the office every weekday,” Mohamed Samir, a 40-year-old engineer, told Al-Ahram Weekly. Since 8 May he and his colleagues have been obliged to work from the offices five days, instead of two or three, each week.
While Covid-19 initially upended people’s lives, Samir says they have become accustomed to working remotely. He doesn’t believe that home working negatively impacted productivity: indeed, he thinks the opposite is true, since no time was wasted commuting.
Mohamed Adel, 45, agrees. “When I work at office, three hours are added to the work day because of the commute,” he told the Weekly.
Mohamed Abdel-Razek, a 39-year-old branch manager of a tech company, says that at his company “we used to work six hours a day but now we are back to eight hours for six days per week.” Yet he points out that despite the increased hours, there has been no increase in sales.
Other people prefer working in the office to the hybrid system. “I appreciate the fixed routine. I need consistency,” Hani Rayan, 49, said.
Mustafa Barakat, 35, also prefers to be physically present for work.
“Internet access problems, an overcrowded flat with children, it doesn’t make working from home comfortable,” said Barakat who missed the team collaboration and building of relationships that are part of office life.
Employers, meanwhile, generally prefer their employees to work from the office.
“For employers, working from home is akin to taking a holiday,” Ahmed Yehia, deputy director and PR manager of a higher education institute, told the Weekly.
Ahmed Hamdi, CEO of a medium-sized enterprise, said the hybrid system undermined team effectiveness and performance by weakening trust and team spirit.
“A hybrid work system means the manager has to create in-group and out-group dynamic that could cause a divide between those in the office and those at home,” Hamdi argued.
Since the start of the pandemic, Egyptians’ lives have gradually shifted online, with the Internet being used for everything from working remotely and e-learning to ordering food and clothes.
Egypt had 76.9 million Internet users in January 2022, up from 50.4 million in January 2021, of which 63.9 million were via mobiles, according to a report issued in March 2022 by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
The number of Internet users in Egypt through mobile phones alone has increased by 13.5 million in one year, according to the report.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.