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Sunday, 12 April 2020

What we’re tracking on 12 April 2020

We’re headed into a four-day long weekend, friends, and we cannot ever recall having been more profoundly grateful for a holiday. Banks and the EGX are off on Sunday, 19 April in observance of Coptic Easter, while Monday is a national holiday for Sham El Nessim.

Happy (western) Easter to all of our readers who celebrate today.

We’re also less than two weeks out from the start of Ramadan, which will fall on Friday, 24 April — one day after the Sisi administration is due to decide on the renewal of the 8pm-6am curfew and other measures in place to slow the transmission of covid-19. Dar Al Ifta, which issues opinions on issues of religious law and practice for the observant, will not be holding its traditional moon sighting to determine the start of the holy month, and has instead announced the date based on its calculations, according to Youm7.

Food for thought as we start the week:

Global trade sputters, leaving too much here, too little there: As the pandemic stretches on, businesses and consumers alike could run short of some products in months to come, the New York Times worries. The Wall Street Journal adds that on the food front in particular, the US, Europe and “other wealthy regions are unlikely to experience serious problems … but poorer countries … could struggle.”

Coronavirus may ‘reactivate’ in cured patients, Bloomberg quotes Korea’s CDC as saying. The notion underscores the MIT Technology Review’s contention that “coronavirus antibody testing needs to get a lot better, and so does our understanding of immunity, before people can start circulating freely.” Wired’s UK edition, with characteristic understatement, notes, that immunity passports that “split society along the lines of immune and not-immune people might not be a good idea.” At least 70 companies in the US are said to be developing antibody tests for the virus that causes covid-19.

MUST READ- The key going forward isn’t asking “How soon can we return to normal life,” the New York Times writes after looking at how European nations are starting to life controls on daily lives. It’s learning to live with corona until a vaccine is found as epidemiologists worry about a second wave of infections.

Among the countries planning to test the waters: “Austria is allowing small shops to resume business after Easter. Denmark is reopening nurseries and primary schools. The Czech Republic is planning to lift a travel ban.” Denmark’s PM said it best: “It’s like walking a tightrope. If we stand still, we may fall. If we go too fast, it may soon go wrong. We don’t know when we’ll be on firm ground again.”


Egypt now has 1939 confirmed cases of covid-19 after the Health Ministry reported 145 new infections yesterday. The ministry also said that another 11 people had died of the infection, taking the death toll to 146. We now have a total of 542 cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized, of whom 426 have fully recovered.

At least three doctors have died of covid-19, including one who contracted the virus on duty, the Medical Syndicate said in a statement. Forty-three doctors have also tested positive so far, but the syndicate expects the figure to rise as it continues tallying cases.

Police dispersed a demonstration of Dakahlia residents who were trying to stop the burial of one of the infected doctors, according to Al Masry Al Youm. Twenty-three people were arrested. Dar Al Ifta, which issues opinions on issues of religious law and practice for the observant, later issued a statement that trying to prevent burials is simply wrong.

The Health Ministry has launched a covid-19 hotline on WhatsApp with a bot developed to address frequently asked questions, the ministry said in a statement. The Health Ministry had received more than 477k inquiries about the virus through its telephone hotlines last month, most of which were about prevention methods, common symptoms, complications, and what callers should do if they had symptoms.

Museums and archaeological sites will remain closed until further notice, the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry said after Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly announced last week the nighttime curfew will be extended for two weeks.

Factories have received the greenlight to use a staggering shift system to distribute their workers across three shifts to maintain productivity as long as they follow protection and safety procedures, Trade and Industry Minister Nevine Gamea said (watch, runtime: 5:33).

Freezone companies will now be able to sell 50% of their products in local markets for a six-month period, GAFI boss Mohamed Abdel Awahab said. Industrial manufacturers will also be permitted to sell 20% of their raw materials in the domestic market and businesses will have another six months to meet the mandatory financial reserves and update their insurance policies. Commercial license renewals are also getting a three-month break, allowing manufacturers to continue operations — on the proviso that companies confirm their intent to renew.

An unnamed Red Sea hotel will have its license revoked after failing to pay employee salaries, according to a Tourism Ministry statement. This comes amid government efforts to support the tourism sector to prevent covid-19 layoffs, with directives issued to businesses to avoid salary deductions and layoffs where possible.

Bibliotheca Alexandrina is going digital: The library will launch virtual tours from tomorrow until 22 April to encourage people to stay home, according to Ahram Online.


State-owned Misr Cement-Qena donated EGP 2 mn to the Tahya Misr Fund to support irregular laborers and buy respirators for hospitals, according to the local press.

The Federation of Egyptian Industries’ chemical industries division has earmarked EGP 1 mn to finance new hospital equipment or respirators, division head Sherif El-Gabaly said, according to the local press.


The US now has the world’s highest covid-19 death toll, surpassing Italy yesterday with more than 20k deaths and counting. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested the curve is beginning to flatten out in the state as the virus “hit its apex.” The story is front-page news around the world this morning: WSJ | NYT | Reuters | Financial Times.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has indefinitely extended the kingdom’s nighttime curfew, the Saudi Press Agency said. The curfew was first imposed on 23 March for a three-week period after Saudi saw more than 4k cases.

Sub-Saharan African is heading into its first recession in 25 years, according to the World Bank: The region will contract by 2.1-5.1% in 2020 after posting 2.4% growth last year, the bank predicts in its latest Africa Pulse report. The virus will cause the region to lose anywhere between USD 37 bn and USD 79 bn in output this year due to the breakdown of trade and supply chain disruption, falling inflows, and disruption caused by emergency measures to quell the outbreak.

The EGX 30 was up 2.4% on Thursday, dragged up by index heavyweight CIB, which was up 5% at the closing bell. The exchange saw active trading, with shares worth EGP 800 mn changing hands, about 40% above the trailing 90-day average. The EGX30 is now down 26.1% since the start of the year, but gained 9.2% last week (its best week since covid-19 hit) as it turned in gains in four sessions back-to-back, propped up by domestic investors.

US stocks, meanwhile, had their best one-week showing since 1974, ending the week up 12% on news of a series of new “sweeping” measures announced by the Fed after weekly data showed that unemployment claims surged for three weeks straight. European markets were also up on Thursday. US and European markets were closed on Friday for western Easter and will be closed again tomorrow in observance of Easter Monday.

The US Fed said on Thursday that it will open USD 2.3 tn in credit lines to SMEs and local state governments and purchase bonds and collateralized debt. This comes on top of the historic USD 2.3 tn stimulus package that passed the House last month, as well as other economic prop-up measures.

Opec+ reaches initial agreement on production cuts but Mexico isn’t playing ball: Opec and its Russian-led allies (Opec+) reached an initial agreement to cut production by 10 mn barrels a day following a meeting on Thursday, but Mexico is looking to negotiate smaller production cuts, according to Bloomberg. The group’s virtual meetings ran from Thursday to Saturday and it still remains unclear whether they will reach a compromise, delegates said. G20 energy ministers also talked on Friday about taking “the necessary measures” to stop oil prices from tumbling further but didn’t discuss specific production numbers.

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