Egypt recorded its highest daily rise in COVID-19 cases on April 16, Thursday. According to the health ministry, 168 new infections were detected on Thursday, taking the total numbers of positive cases to 2,673. 196 people have died due to COVID-19 in Egypt so far.
The government has imposed a partial lockdown, shutting down schools and colleges, preventing mass prayers and cancelling sports activities, among others. A nationwide 10-hour curfew is also in place at night.
Prime minister Mostafa Madbouly announced on Thursday that all public transport and public places will be shut on April 20, Monday, to avoid large gatherings on the occasion of Sham-e-Nessim, a prominent festival in Egypt when people go out with their families.
The lockdown has proved disastrous for daily wage earners in a country with an official poverty rate of 32%. Complaints about corruption in the disbursal of a 500 Egyptian pound (USD 33) relief sum sanctioned by the government for all those who register are also rampant. The lockdown has especially hit hard women who constitute the majority of the care, teaching and tourism industry workers.
Meanwhile, government-owned ahramonline reported on Thursday that the Egyptian parliament is planning an amendment to the country’s emergency law in order to grant president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi additional powers to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As per the report, the power to impose lockdowns and the “right to allocate cash and in-kind assistance to individuals and families, offer financial support to medical research, provide financial and in-kind support to damaged economic sectors, postpone the payment of certain taxes, and turn schools and youth centers into field hospitals” will be added to the president’s emergency powers on Saturday.
The report also states that the parliament will consider a law to delay or provide exemptions to businesses in the payment of taxes and social insurance, provided they do not fire their workers. The pension law will also be amended to add certain bonuses and increase pension value by up to 80%.
The Egyptian economy is expected to suffer significantly due to the loss of its tourism and Suez Canal revenues. It will also be impacted by the reduction in remittances from its citizens working in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and other areas. These three sectors together contribute around 20% of Egypt’s GDP.