What we’re tracking on 29 June 2020
THERE HAS BEEN A CHANGE OF PLANS and we now have a long weekend to which to look forward rather than a midweek holiday tomorrow. The Madbouly Cabinet decided last night to make Thursday, 2 July a national holiday for the public and private sectors in observance of the anniversary of the 30 June protests that ended our Islamist interregnum, according to a statement.
But of course it’s just not that simple:
State-owned banks will be off on Wednesday, 1 July, as will any private sector banks whose fiscal years end 30 June. State banks always close their doors to the public at the end of their fiscal year to close their books.
All banks will be off on Thursday, the Central Bank of Egypt said last night in a new circular that set aside the previously announced 30 June bank holiday.
And the stock exchange will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday as the bourse doesn’t open when a significant part of the banking system is closed.
SMART POLICY- Cabinet has decided that we’re going to have more long weekends from now on. If a national holiday falls in the middle of the week, it will automatically be pushed to the following Thursday. The exceptions: Eid El Fitr, Eid El Adha, and Coptic Christmas. Mabrouk, everyone: We now have more clarity to plan and the promise of more long weekends. That’s a win, so far as we’re concerned, but enjoy redoing your corporate / school / personal calendars, boys and girls.
Enterprise is also off on Thursday and will be back in your inboxes at the usual hour on Sunday morning.
It’s a big day for the future of our water supply — and of farmers — as the UN Security Council is set to talk GERD today after the issue was put on the agenda at the request of France. Egypt held talks with several council members ahead of the meeting to clarify its stance on the dispute, according to Ahram Gate.
Egypt rallies int’l support as GERD talks resume: The Emigration Ministry released a video over the weekend urging viewers to sign a petition for Ethiopia to abide by the 2015 Declaration of Principles and refrain from filling the reservoirs of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without reaching an agreement with its downstream neighbors, Sudan and Egypt (watch, runtime 1:39). The video comes as the three countries have returned to the negotiating table this week in a last-ditch effort to reach a final pact on the dam.
Meanwhile, Egypt should receive the first USD 2 bn tranche of the IMF’s USD 5.2 bn standby loan within the next few days, Central Bank of Egypt Deputy Governor Ramy Aboul Naga told Al Arabiya (watch, runtime: 7:14). The IMF had approved on Friday the loan, which will help the country plug a balance of payments shortfall and finance the budget deficit. The remaining USD 3.2 bn will be doled out in two further tranches after staff reviews.
And no, you weren’t imaging things: A 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit Cairo yesterday evening at around 7:43 pm, said Gad El-Kadi, head of the National Institute of Astronomical Research, according to Ahram Gate.
Add the Financial Times to the list of folks concerned about what school closures and “hybrid learning” could mean for working parents. As we suggested yesterday, businesses need to consider what the possibility of blended learning could mean to their staff come September, which is not that many sleeps away.
One good piece of news for folks with young ankle biters in the house: Nurseries will be permitted to reopen as early as this Wednesday under guidelines announced by Social Solidarity Minister Nivine Kabbag (watch, runtime: 12:41). Kabbag told ExtraNews that nurseries will be allowed to operate four days a week — from Sunday through Wednesday — but will have to close their doors each day at 3pm rather than 5pm. All staff members will be required to wear masks and gloves (kids are exempt).
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
The Health Ministry confirmed 81 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 2,789. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 65,188 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,265 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 17,538 cases that have fully recovered.
New guidelines: Following World Health Organization guidelines, the Health Ministry is now considering any covid-19 patient who shows no symptoms for 10 days as being fully recovered, according to the statement. The last confirmed figure for the number of confirmed cases that tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated was 18,658 on Saturday.
Rep. Abdel Rehim Ali has tested positive for covid-19 and has been hospitalized in an ICU in a hospital in Paris, where he was attending a conference on the crisis in Libya, Al Shorouk reports. Ali is the eleventh MP to have tested positive for the virus thus far, according to Ahram Online.
Some 50% of the 300k registered restaurants, hotels, and tourist facilities in Giza opened their doors on Saturday, when the government lifted the curfew and allowed a host of non-essential services to return to normal working hours for the first time in three months, according to Al Mal. The Consumer Protection Agency, along with the Health and Tourism Ministries, have started inspecting facilities at random to ensure they abide by the precautionary measures, including a 25% cap on occupancy. The Tourism Ministry has handed out safety certificates to 144 restaurants and cafes, a statement said.
Matrouh’s El Negelah Hospital, the country’s first dedicated covid-19 quarantine facility, is resuming operations as a full-service hospital and will no longer be limited to operating as a quarantine facility, deputy director Mohamed Ibrahim said (watch, runtime: 5:49). The hospital is still treating covid-19 patients.
Uber’s Careem expects demand for its services to pick up sooner than initially projected, and return to pre-corona levels sometime in 2021 as countries relax lockdown measures, CEO Mudassir Sheikha told Reuters’ Arabic service. The pandemic has hit the ride-hailing company hard, forcing it to slash 31% of its workforce in May after business fell by 80%. Both Careem and parent company Uber have indefinitely suspended recruiting new drivers amid the slump in activity.
Reminder: We’re also reopening our international airspace on Wednesday, 1 July, with EgyptAir set to resume flights to 22 destinations. You can find details on the flights and how to confirm your bookings here.
Three tour groups are set to arrive in Egypt in early July, said Travco Tourism Group General Manager Moataz Sedky, which organized the tours, according to Hapi Journal. The Travco groups are coming out of Italy, Belgium, and Ukraine. Charter flights are resuming at the beginning of the month to the Red Sea, South Sinai, and Matrouh.
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
The covid-19 pandemic reached a grim milestone yesterday as the global infection count crossed into eight figures. Johns Hopkins University data shows that there have now been more than 10 mn cases of the virus and 500k deaths since the outbreak began in China at the start of the year. The news comes as the US health secretary warned that the “window is closing” to halt the spread of the virus across America and as the New York Times reported that US testing sites are overwhelmed.
Another 500k people in China have been locked down, after authorities detected a new virus cluster near Beijing, Deutsche Welle reports.
EGYPT BEYOND COVID-
The Egyptian Private Equity Association is holding a webinar with Sovereign Fund of Egypt head Ayman Soliman today at 11 am. Moderated by EPEA chairman and the fund’s new CIO Abdalla Elebiary, the session will cover the fund’s targets, plans and partnerships. Contact the EPEA for more info.
EG Bank and Cairo Angels are now accepting applications for the fall 2020 cycle of the Mint Incubator. The program will for the first time feature a dedicated track for fintech startups.The deadline for applications is 15 August. Apply here.
AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-
Three Egyptian businesses made it into Forbes’ 2020 Top 100 Arab Family Businesses in the Middle East, which is dominated by Emirati and Saudi firms. Egypt’s Mansour Group — managed by Mohamed, Yassin and Youssef Mansour — landed in the top spot on the list overall, with a combined wealth of USD 7.4 bn. Memaar Al Morshedy ranked 55, while ElAraby Group ranked 68.
More big brands have pulled their ads from social media for the foreseeable future: Starbucks, Levi’s, Hersheys and alcohol maker Diageo have all joined Unilever, Coca-Cola and Verizon in pulling out of most forms of social media for a six-month period amid suggestions that Facebook, in particular, has become a toxic player in global society. Most of the bans appear so far to apply primarily to the companies’ US media spend. Diageo’s moratorium on social media spending is global, the Financial Times notes. CNBC has more.
It’s the salmon-colored paper’s equivalent of newbie foreign reporters showing up in Cairo and talking to taxi drivers to take the pulse of the “Arab street,” but there’s a kernel of truth nonetheless to Rana Foroohar’s latest column for the FT, wherein she argues that the picture painted by small businesses offers a much grimmer assessment of the health of he US economy than does the performance of the stock market. Read: Small business: a canary in the US economic coal mine.