Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 13 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Egyptian hotels reopened with reduced occupancy because of virus are nearly full

Egypt suspended international flights in March and shut down restaurants, hotels and cafes

A family rides a motorbike in front of National Hepatology and Tropical Medicine Research Institute amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in Cairo, in Egypt May 26, 2020. Reuters
A family rides a motorbike in front of National Hepatology and Tropical Medicine Research Institute amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in Cairo, in Egypt May 26, 2020. Reuters

Egyptian hotels operating with a new reduced occupancy rate of 25 per cent to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus have almost reached full capacity, a tourism ministry official said on Sunday.

Egypt suspended international flights in March and shut down restaurants, hotels and cafes in order to combat the pandemic. Although airports remain closed to all but domestic and repatriation flights, hotels were recently allowed to reopen at a quarter of their usual capacity if they met strict health and safety protocols.

Around 78 hotels, mostly along the Red Sea coast, met these rules and are currently operating with an occupancy rate of 20 per cent to 22 per cent, said the ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. An additional 173 hotels across the country have applied for a licence to reopen and will be considered in the coming week, he added.

The government said it aimed to increase the permitted occupancy rate of hotels to 50 per cent in June. Tourism is one of the country's main sources of foreign currency and accounts for 5 per cent of GDP.

Egypt has so far registered 23,449 cases of the new coronavirus including 913 deaths. Some of the first cases registered in the country were of foreign nationals.

The announcement comes a day after police fanned out across Egypt to enforce the obligatory use of surgical masks in public spaces as the country slowly reopens despite a spike in the daily number of Covid-19 infections.

Police in Cairo and a string of major cities set up checkpoints on major roads to look for offenders on the first day of implementing the rule on masks.

Offenders were fined 300 pounds on the spot as part of a stepped up drive by the government to get Egyptians to diligently observe preventing measures to contain the spread of coronavirus, which causes the deadly Covid-19 disease.

Under the new measures, Egyptians must wear masks when using public transport, while visiting government offices or inside malls and stores.

The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, said in a statement that taxi drivers would be held responsible for enforcing the masks rule on their passengers.

It also said that drivers and passengers of private vehicles were exempt from the mask rule, but not those in cars used by ride-hailing services like Uber.

Egypt, the most populous Arab nation with 100 million people, has been seeking to strike a balance between protecting people from the coronavirus while preventing the economy from tanking.

The government has repeatedly told Egyptians that, until a vaccine is found, they must learn to live with the pandemic while taking preventive measures like social distancing and hygienic practices.

Several of the country’s most powerful businessmen have warned that an economic meltdown could be more deadly than Covid-19, a view that critics saw as both insensitive and self-serving.

Already, the government has announced a massive stimulus to keep the economy afloat and asked the International Monetary Fund for multibillion dollar loans to shore up its finances.

It has decided to dock one percent of the gross salary of state employees for 12 months as a contribution toward the cost of fighting Covid-19.

Updated: May 31, 2020 04:43 PM

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