What we’re tracking on 21 May 2020
We’re very much ready to slide into the longest-ever Eid El Fitr holiday, with Planet Finance joining the rest of the private sector (and all government and public-sector employees) in taking off the entirety of next week. We hope you all enjoy some time off with your families, because really, none of us have been “working from home” the past few months — we’re all at home, in a crisis, trying to work (often as we care for or worry about families — including elderly parents and children who need homeschooling). So, enough.
We’re taking the week off, too. Enterprise will be back in your inbox at the appointed hour on Sunday, 31 May — properly caffeinated and ready for whatever is next.
The first day of Eid is set for Sunday — that’s when new measures to control the spread of the virus that causes covid-19 go into effect: Curfew will run 5pm-6am CLT and just about all stores except supermarkets, pharmacies and bakeries will be closed until Saturday. Curfew resets to 8pm-6am CLT on Saturday, 30 May, and most citizen-facing government services including passport and visa renewals are suspended for an additional 15 day after the end of Eid.
So, when do we eat? For the last time this Ramadan, we are pleased to advise you that Maghrib prayers are at 6:45pm and you’ll have until 3:17am to finish caffeinating / having the sohour of your choice.
THANK YOU ALL for having spent Ramadan with us. It’s an honour to write to each and every one of you each weekday morning.
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
Egypt has now disclosed a total of 14,229 confirmed cases of covid-19 after the Health Ministry reported a record 745 new infections yesterday, just ahead of the 720 cases it reported on Wednesday. The ministry also said that another 21 people had died from the virus (compared to 14 the day before), taking the death toll to 680. We now have a total of 4,584 confirmed cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated, of whom 3,994 have fully recovered.
Anyone with symptoms of covid-19 will be able to seek testing at non-specialist state-run hospitals starting today, Health Minister Hala Zayed said, according to a cabinet statement. That means testing should be available at some 320 facilities nationwide, marking a substantial expansion of testing capacity. The Health Ministry will be asking people with minor symptoms of covid-19 to self-isolate at home until the results are in, while those with more severe symptoms will be kept on site until test results are in, Zayed said.
The move came after the World Health Organization had earlier said that Egypt needed to expand its testing capacity, Reuters suggested yesterday, adding that the WHO didn’t specify the level of testing it recommends.
Cairo and Giza remain the country’s hotspots with the highest infection rates nationwide, cabinet said yesterday.
Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Ati is quarantining at home for 14 days as a precaution after meeting with the Daqahliyah Governor Ayman Mokhtar shortly before the governor tested positive for covid-19 on Monday, he wrote on his Facebook page. Abdel Ati was tested for the virus on Tuesday, Al Shorouk reports, and is awaiting the results.
Fayoum University President Gaber Shadid has tested positive and is now in quarantine at the university’s hospital, Al Masry Al Youm reports.
COVID + BUSINESS IN EGYPT-
Officials have cleared another 26 hotels in South Sinai, the Red Sea, Alexandria, and Matrouh for reopening, bringing the total number of hotels that received the health certificates required to reopen to 44, Al Mal reports.
You’re set if you planned a Cairo staycation for Eid: Joining the 18 hotels already approved are the Marriott Mena House, the Cairo Marriott, the JW Marriott, the Conrad Cairo and the Renaissance Cairo Mirage City, according to a ministry statement.
Private airlines are calling for lower interest rates on USD-denominated loans to finance their operating expenses, says Yosry Abdel Wahab, the head of a new lobby group for the private airline industry that’s now forming. Private operators have been working together in recent weeks calling for a bailout package, including successive requests for lower airport fees, as the pandemic has brought tourism and commercial aviation to a halt.
Hotels and other tourist facilities are getting a break on their electricity bills, where they won’t have to make payments until October. The decision came following a meeting between the electricity and tourism ministers, Hapi Journal writes.
Advertising agencies have reportedly lost a combined EGP 200-250 mn in sales revenue between January and April, Al Shorouk reported, quoting Federation of Egyptian Industries member Ashraf Khairy. With advertising agencies locked into long-term contracts to rent billboards for outdoor ads (which they then on-sell to their clients for campaigns), Khairy is asking state agencies and companies to waive rents for the foreseeable future. Khairy had suggested earlier this month that the industry is being hit particularly hard covid-19, with outdoor ads having taken the biggest blow. As many as 250k direct jobs in the industry are now a risk, the story claims.
AmCham is out with a survey of Egyptian businesses to gauge the private sector’s experiences of the pandemic and how they view the government’s fiscal response. Of the 103 companies surveyed, half reported a moderate impact on their operations and 30% said the pandemic had severely impacted their business activity. All sectors expressed concern about how the virus’ impact on finances and operations, while tourism, hospitality and healthcare firms reported “severe workforce challenges” and manufacturing and transport companies cited supply chain and operational disruptions as a key issue. Tap or click here to read the full report (pdf).
USAID is providing the Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) with a EGP 51 mn grant to support its covid-19 efforts, according to a press release.
Ibnsina Pharma is donating EGP 4 mn to Ahalena — a government initiative to support day workers — and another EGP 1 mn to the Immigration Ministry, according to a cabinet statement.
Johnson & Johnson has donated EGP 1 mn to the Egyptian Red Crescent, according to Al Shorouk.
Banque du Caire and Ahl Masr Foundation have inaugurated a covid-19 isolation facility with an inpatient capacity of 200 beds “with the aim of supporting state agencies and the health sector in Egypt,” reports Al Mal. BdC is also working with Misr El Kheir to provide food boxes for 50k families of day workers in Upper Egypt.
The Egyptian Food Bank has been providing meals to Egyptians under quarantine in university dorms in eight governorates since 9 May and will continue to do so until 5 June, according to Al Shorouk.
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
Yesterday saw the largest-yet single day tally of new cases globally, according to the World Health Organization, suggesting the pandemic still has a long way to go before it peaks even as some countries are easing lockdown restrictions.
And there may be bad news out of China, where doctors fear the virus is mutating: Chinese doctors studying new clusters that emerged in the country’s north say that patients are carrying the virus for longer periods of time and take longer to test negative, “suggesting that the pathogen may be changing in unknown ways and complicating efforts to stamp it out,” Bloomberg says.
IATA lays out blueprint for getting the aviation industry back on its feet: Governments and airlines must collaborate to provide passengers with self-service options to ensure safety and decongest traffic at airports, including collecting passenger health data ahead of travel and offering remote check-ins, automated bag drops and self-boarding, the International Air Transport Association recommends.
The Evil Empire is gearing up to reopen its offices in July at 25% capacity as Facebook said it will require its staff to wear masks in situations where social distancing can’t be maintained, Bloomberg reports. On a more responsible note, Matercard “will not ask employees to return to its worldwide corporate offices until they are comfortable that the sometimes fatal coronavirus is under control with vaccines or other measures,” Reuters writes.
The outlook is growing ever-more gloomy for corporate profits in Europe despite gradual reopening: Stoxx 600 companies are expected to report a 48.4% drop in 2Q2020 earnings (down from 46.7% forecast just a week ago), followed by a 35.3% drop in 3Q2020, Reuters reports, citing Refinitiv data. The downwards revisions for earnings forecasts signal that analysts aren’t penciling in a gradual economic recovery before 2021.
US Senate moves to ban Chinese listings: The US Senate voted through legislation yesterday that could ban Chinese companies from listing shares on US exchanges or seeking investment from US investors, CNBC reports.
Sign of the times- World Bank makes disaster management expert its new chief economist: The World Bank has appointed Carmen Reinhart, a professor at Harvard University who specializes in financial disasters, its new chief economist, the FT says.
The UK sold its first-ever negative-yield three-year bonds yesterday, “reflecting growing investor expectations that the Bank of England may need to take additional steps to push inflation back to its 2% target,” the Financial Times reports. While the kingdom sold a one-month bond at a negative yield four years ago, yesterday’s sale marks the first long-term bond the Bank of England has sold at a yield below zero. The bond sale comes after consumer price inflation in the UK dropped to a four-year low of 0.8%. The news comes as Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey told MPs yesterday that the UK is contemplating cutting interest rates into negative territory for the first time.