Egypt Eases Virus Restrictions
Egypt on Saturday lifted many restrictions put in place against the coronavirus pandemic, reopening cafes, clubs, gyms and theaters after more than three months of closure.
Authorities also allowed the reopening of mosques and churches, and lifted the nighttime curfew.
In Cairo, coffee shops reopened to receive in-house customers for the first time since mid-March. But “shisha,” the hookah waterpipe so popular in the Middle East, are no longer offered widely over sanitary concerns.
Cafes have been allowed to reopen at only 25 percent seating capacity, according to Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly.
Mosques and churches will also not be allowed to hold their weekly main services, when large crowds traditionally gather for worship. The government has banned Friday’s Muslim prayers at mosques and Sunday masses at churches, Madbouly said.
Wearing face masks, worshippers Saturday poured into mosques for the fajr, dawn, prayers, for the first time in months.
“People were looking forward to that day,” Reda el-Sayed said, the prayer leader of a mosque in Giza. “They miss the mosques.”
Egypt’s health ministry has reported 62,755 infections, including 2,620 deaths — the highest death toll in the region.
The government is also planning the reopening of select tourist destinations to international charter flights starting Thursday, allowing travelers from around the world to return to parts of the country less hard-hit by the coronavirus.
Those include the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, home to the major resort and beach destination of Sharm el Sheikh, the Red Sea resort areas of Hurghada and Marsa Alam, as well as Marsa Matrouh, on the Mediterranean coast.
EgyptAir said it would resume its non-stop flights to more than 29 international destinations starting July 1.
The destinations include 17 in Europe, 4 in Africa, 4 in the Middle East, and 3 in North America in addition to Guangzhou in China, EgyptAir said.