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Here are the latest figures on COVID-19 as of Tuesday, May 19:
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Sawiris, chambers of commerce push for business as usual despite Tuesday surge in new cases
Naguib Sawiris representatives from Egypt’s chambers of commerce are pushing for business as usual despite Tuesday surge in new cases Tuesday saw the number of COVID-19 cases registered per day surge up to reach 720. The Health Ministry did not comment.
Nevertheless, signs of a persistent push toward getting the country back to work, in line with a mid-June target to kick off the “coexisting with coronavirus” plan, continued both in government and without.
Instead of stepping up the imperative for the government to tighten precautions, MP Saeed Shabayek continued a line that has centered individual responsibility as the key to curbing the spread of the coronavirus. He blamed citizens heading out to Iftar meals and crowding markets during Ramadan for the ascending number of cases, after the Health Ministry registered record-high numbers of new cases for two consecutive days.
And regardless of the numbers, key players in the business world increased pressure on the government on Tuesday to relax lockdown measures as soon as possible.
Billionaire business magnate Naguib Sawiris gave an outspoken interview to Russia Today, making no bones about his belief in the relative unimportance of deaths as a result of the coronavirus.
While Sawiris has been pushing for a return to business as usual since early on in Egypt’s pandemic, Tuesday saw the Orascom owner upping the ante. Sawiris is quoted in the privately-owned Al-Watan, under a headline which reads, “People will die of hunger, job opportunities will vanish.” Sawiris dismissed the daily death rate, saying, “20 deaths in a country with a population of 100 million — is that a number?!”
The Cairo Chamber of Commerce took on a similar tone, with Ibrahim al-Araby, who heads the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, reportedly urging the assembly to cooperate with the government to implement the “coexisting with coronavirus plan,” according to Ahmed al-Wassimi, the deputy head of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce. Coverage in the privately-owned Youm7 quotes Wassimi as noting the importance of resuming production while ensuring that health precautions are in place to “preserve the public interest.”
As well as disregarding an upward trend in the number of cases, the momentum building toward lifting the lockdown in mid-June comes despite a major question mark over the capacity of Egypt’s health system to absorb and process suspected cases of the virus.
News on Tuesday also saw the Health Ministry shorten the period of quarantine required for repatriated Egyptians to seven days, down from the previously recommended 14. Returnees will be subject to the less accurate rapid testing procedures on arrival at quarantine facilities and will be tested again as they leave after seven days. If positive, they will be transported to quarantine hospitals.
The ministry has likewise been pushing a protocol for self-isolation, to reduce the number of patients coming into hospitals.
At the same time, the Health Ministry appears to have applied pressure to private hospitals, according to a piece on the privately-owned Masrawy news website, requiring the private facilities to pull their weight in processing patients with coronavirus symptoms after complaints that patients with respiratory symptoms were being turned away.
Other top news items related to COVID-19 that made it to the headlines in Wednesday’s press include: