June 23, 2020 / 12:01 PM / 15 days ago

Egypt lifts night curfew, eases coronavirus restrictions from Saturday

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will from Saturday lift a night-time curfew that had been in force since March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and reopen restaurants, cafes, and places of worship, albeit with limits on the numbers visiting, the government said.

FILE PHOTO: A high school student has his temperature checked before the final exams, amid concerns over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Cairo, Egypt June 21, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The new measures come despite Egypt seeing an acceleration of new cases in recent weeks, with infections confirmed by the Health Ministry surging to 56,809, including 2,278 deaths.

While Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly acknowledged the numbers were rising as he announced the measures on Tuesday, he repeated the government’s message that citizens will have to learn to live with the pandemic as it seeks to limit the impact on the economy.

“We still have the ability to absorb the current numbers and we also have an existing reserve of hospitals; the armed forces and the police hospitals,” he said.

Restaurants and cafes will operate at 25% capacity and shut at 10 p.m. from Saturday, while mosques and churches will be open for daily praying but not for end-of-week prayers or services which sees larger crowds, Madbouly said.

Cinemas and theatres will also reopen at 25% capacity.

Public beaches and parks will remain shut and public transport will be suspended from midnight until 4 a.m.. Most tourist hotels have their own private beaches and pools.

The decisions to ease the restrictions could be revoked if people do not follow the rules still in place, Madbouly said.

The curfew will be fully lifted starting from Saturday, Hany Younes, the prime minister’s media adviser said.

This month, Egypt said it would reopen all its airports for scheduled international traffic and open up its main resorts for foreign tourists on July 1.

As in other countries, many coronavirus cases are believed to have gone unreported. The higher education minister cited a study on June 1 estimating that the actual number of cases could be up to five times higher than the reported figure.

Separately, a telephone survey conducted by Baseera, a private centre for public opinion research that is known for its support of the government, showed on Monday that nearly 616,000 Egyptians over 18 years in the country of 100 million people had been infected.

Some 15% said they were diagnosed through a coronavirus test, while others were diagnosed after normal blood tests, chest X-rays or a visit to a doctor. Nearly 16% self-diagnosed, given their symptoms. The government has not commented on the survey results.

Reporting by Nadine Awadalla, Omar Fahmy and Moamen Said Atallah; Writing by Aidan Lewis and Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Jon Boyle and Alison Williams

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