Heritage protection against Covid-19

Nevine El-Aref , Tuesday 31 Mar 2020

Egypt is disinfecting and sanitising its archaeological sites, museums, and hotels as part of efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, reports Nevine El-Aref

Sanitisation process at Giza Plateau (photo: Ahmed Romeih)

Egypt has imposed a series of measures to rein in the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, including suspending air traffic, closing schools and universities, shutting malls and cafés, and imposing a two-week curfew from 7pm to 6am every day. It has also banned gatherings for prayers in mosques and churches, and parliament has suspended its activities until 12 April.

Among the other precautionary measures taken, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has closed all museums and archaeological sites across the country. In collaboration with the Egyptian Hotels Association, all social gatherings in hotels have been banned, and restaurants, gyms, casinos and nightclubs in hotels have been closed to outside guests.

“This is not an inactive period, however,” Khaled El-Enany, minister of tourism and antiquities, said, explaining that the ministry was using the period to disinfect and sterilise museums, archaeological sites and hotels across Egypt in order to protect against the Covid-19 pandemic. The process is being carried out in coordination with the ministry of health and population and according to conditions approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A widespread re-organisation of the ministry and the development of infrastructure and facilities at the country’s cultural, maritime and leisure destinations would also take place, El-Enany said.

“Egypt, with its unique and diverse ancient civilisations, sunny and warm weather, and beautiful coastlines on the Mediterranean and Red Seas, is one of the best tourist attractions worldwide,” he added, saying that Egypt would also surprise the world with a major discovery soon after the end of the crisis.

Cleaners sterilising Abu Simbel Temple (photos Ahmed Romeih)

Meanwhile, armoured with masks, gloves and yellow, white and gray suits, cleaners wielding industrial sterilisation equipment are the main scene inside hotels, museums and archaeological sites across Egypt. They are working to disinfect and sterilise site entrances, ticket offices, and nearby roads, as well as museum corridors and halls, hotel restaurants and kitchens, swimming pools, open areas, corridors, guest rooms and elevators across the country.

“The closing of the museums and archaeological sites will be extended until 15 April,” Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), said, adding that since their first closing on 23 March the ministry had been engaged in cleaning operations on uncovered surfaces and those in direct contact with visitors.

“At the Giza Plateau, we started the first phase of the disinfection, including the areas around the Pyramids and the Sphinx, and there are other phases to come,” said Ashraf Mohieddin, director-general of the Giza Plateau.

“We are in the process of disinfecting all tourist sites, though the artefacts themselves will require specific materials, and cleaning must be carried out by specialised teams of archaeologists,” he added. “We are making use of this period to sanitise the entire area of the Pyramids and to carry out maintenance work and renovations so that this area will be ready to welcome visitors again.”

The operations have swept hotels and resorts throughout Egypt. Disinfection and sterilisation measures had already been taken at historic sites in Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, and in the Delta.

In collaboration with the Egyptian Hotels Association, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has started the sanitisation of all hotels and resorts on the Red Sea coastline, such as in Hurghada, El Gouna, Makady Bay, and Sharm El-Sheikh, as well as those in Luxor, Aswan and Cairo.

El-Enany follows up the disinfection procedures at a hotel(photos Ahmed Romeih

Maged Fawzi, head of the association, told Al-Ahram Weekly that two international companies, Preverisk and TUV-Nord, had been assigned to help in the sanitisation process through training staff in hotels on how to ensure efficient sanitisation, develop complete procedures and checklists, and take swab tests from selective areas such as guest rooms, public areas, restaurants and bars, and recreational facilities, as well as carry out viral infection simulation exercises.

Training programmes are also taking place to raise the awareness of hotel employees, the curators of museums, and archaeologists at historical sites on the precautionary measures that need to be taken to protect themselves and visitors from Covid-19 and other threats

*A version of this article appears in print in the  2 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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