Coronavirus: Egypt lifts lockdown and reopens cafes, mosques and churches

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Egypt on Tuesday significantly relaxed regulations designed to check the spread of the coronavirus, cancelling the overnight lockdown, reopening mosques and churches and allowing patrons back at restaurants and cafes – but with limited capacity.

Cinemas and theatres will also reopen, but beaches and public parks will remain shut.

Mosques and churches will not be allowed to hold congregational rituals like the Muslim Friday prayers or the Christian liturgy.

Only weekday prayers would be allowed in both, provided that social distancing rules are observed, said the government.

Restaurants, cafes, cinemas and theatres would be allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity, while stores would remain open until 9 pm.

The latest orders reflect the government’s pandemic strategy of gradually reopening the country to avoid an economic meltdown while seeking to protect the population.

Until a vaccine is developed, authorities want Egyptians to learn to live with the coronavirus while taking precautions like social distancing, diligent hygiene practices and wearing masks in public.

Despite Tuesday’s announcement, the daily number of new Covid-19 cases continues to hover well above 1,000, a worrying trend that officials say would only last until the end of June before the curve begins to level off and later flattened by mid-July.

The Health Ministry says a total of 56,809 cases of Covid-19 have been recorded to date as well as 2,278 fatalities.

However, the number of actual cases is thought to be much higher because thousands of Egyptians have contracted mild cases of the disease and are treated at home without a test.

FILE PHOTO: A view of a closed cinema during Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim festival marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Cairo, Egypt, May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany/File Photo
A cinema, closed amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in Cairo, Egypt. Reuters, file

Many also contract the disease but don’t receive treatment through the state health sector. Others contract the disease but don’t realise that they have it. Critics also say that not enough testing was being carried out.

The government says it has dealt with the pandemic professionally and transparently.

Like Egypt, Iran is still trying to get a grip on the virus. It reported 121 new coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, its highest daily toll in over two months.

Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told a news conference that the new fatalities brought the overall virus death toll to 9,863.

That is Iran's highest single-day fatality rate since April 11, when 125 deaths were recorded.

Iran recorded a drop in its daily fatalities in early May, but there has been a rise in recent weeks.

There has been scepticism at home and abroad about the country's official Covid-19 figures, with concerns the actual toll could be much higher.

Iran has not imposed a mandatory lockdown on people to stop the virus's spread, but it closed schools, cancelled public events and banned movement between the country's 31 provinces in March.

The government progressively lifted restrictions from April in order to reopen its sanctions-hit economy.


Gallery: Coronavirus around the Middle East

Saudi women buy tickets for a movie at a cinema in the capital Riyadh as cinemas re-opened. AFP

An empty beach at Lara district in Antalya, a popular holiday resort in southern Turkey. AFP

A doctor affiliated with the Palestinian Health Ministry displays a collected sample for testing for the coronavirus in a mobile tent in the West Bank city of Hebron. AFP

Doctors affiliated with the Palestinian Health Ministry perform checks and collect samples in a mobile tent in the West Bank city of Hebron. AFP

A cinema with social distancing signs is pictured in the Saudi capital Riyadh as cinemas re-opened. AFP

People keep social distance at Antalya International airport in southern Turkey. AFP

A Yemeni member of the medical staff in protective gear flashes the victory sign in the yard of a quarantine centre where Covid-19 patients are treated in Yemen's third city of Taez. AFP

A UNICEF worker helps an internally displaced girl put on a face mask at a makeshift camp in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. Reuters


Updated: June 23, 2020 08:19 PM

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