05/26/2020, 14.48
EGYPT
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The epidemic in Egypt: curfew, economic crisis and prayers

by André Mounir Azzam

All public places have been closed since mid-March: schools, universities, mosques and churches, hotels, restaurants, public gardens, shops with the exception of those selling groceries and pharmacies. The Egyptians participated significantly in the day of prayer held on May 14 by Pope Francis and supported by the great imam of Al-Azhar, the highest authority of Sunni Islam.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Evening curfew, public transport stopped, the obligation to wear masks. Egypt is also combatting the pandemic, as in the rest of the world, with moments of tragedy and hope, respect for the rules and disregard. Coupled with this is a growing economic crisis that in rural areas, in popular neighborhoods and in shanty towns is more feared than the virus, while the state wants to support seasonal workers and people living on a daily income by guaranteeing a minimum rent for these thousands or millions of cases.

Since the beginning of the crisis, the authorities have imposed a curfew from 8 in the evening to 6 in the morning, reduced after three weeks, from 9 pm to 6am. In the traditional holiday week following the end of Ramadan, the curfew was from 17 to 6 in the morning. For six days, from 23 to 29 May all public transport (trains, buses, metro, etc.) were stopped, the first time ever since the first train started operating in 1854.

Since mid-March all public places have been closed: schools, universities, mosques and churches, hotels, restaurants, public gardens, shops with the exception of those selling groceries and pharmacies. And from May 29, those found on the street without a mask will be fined 4 thousand Egyptian pounds (just over 220 euros).

The intense heat - last week there were temperatures between 40 and 45 degrees - makes it difficult to observe the disposition to stay at home in the popular neighborhoods and shanty towns, where inhabitants live in limited and overcrowded conditions.

But the Egyptians have not lost their traditional humor. So it is said that "In Italy they closed the Vatican, in the United States they closed Disney World, in Saudi Arabia Mecca, but in Egypt they failed to close Ataba et le Mouski".

These are the shops and stalls, where you can find absolutely everything: clothes, hardware, furniture, bed linen, sanitary ware, food, and so on. There was no point in the fact that the authorities repeatedly cleared the places.

There were also episodes of disregard for the provisions against the epidemic. The big procession on the first day of Ramadan was also organized in Alexandria this year. Participants were fined. The press denounced episodes such as that of a parliamentarian who organized an outdoor lunch for the break of the fast at sunset, to which he invited 25 colleagues.

On the other hand, it happened that in the countryside the inhabitants opposed the burial of people who died of the virus, for fear of being infected. Funerals and burials took place using the labor of prison intimates.

But the Egyptians participated significantly in the day of prayer called on May 14 by Pope Francis and supported by the great imam of Al-Azhar, the highest authority of Sunni Islam.

Finally, an extraordinary display of kindness from a guide is of note. The last group of German tourists to leave Egypt in March had told their guide that a friend of theirs dreamed of making this trip. Back in Germany, they warned their guide that unfortunately their friend could not have come to Egypt because he died of the virus. The Egyptian guide who lives in Luxor asked them for a photo of this German who died without being able to fulfill his dream. The guide fixed the photo on a mini raft which he placed in the center of the Nile to navigate the river, so that the dream could still come true.

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