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Monday, 31 May 2021

Gov’t to begin phasing out lockdown-lite tomorrow as daily case count continues to decline

We’re going back to normal summer retail hours as of tomorrow after the government’s covid-19 committee agreed yesterday to lift the semi-lockdown measures it imposed earlier this month to contain the country’s covid-19 outbreak ahead of Eid El Fitr holiday, the cabinet announced in a statement. Retail shops will now have to close by 11 pm, while cafes and restaurants can stay open until 1 am. Shops, restaurants and malls had been required to close at 9 pm since 6 May under a two-week order that was later extended.

Large wedding celebrations and funeral prayers will remain banned, though “small-scale” outdoor wedding parties will be allowed with a cap on attendance set at 300 people and an 11 pm deadline to turn off the music, whether they’re held in hotels or on the street, Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad said on Ala Mas’ouleety last night (watch, runtime: 3:06).

There’s still no shisha in cafes and restaurants and other precautionary measures remain in place. All restaurants, cafes, shops, and other establishments that violate the restrictions will be shut down for a week, with owners facing a EGP 4k fine and / or imprisonment.

The government could again tighten restrictions if we’re not good about social distancing or get lax about wearing masks indoors, Saad said (watch, runtime: 2:07).

The move comes as new daily cases are on a noticeable downtrend. Figures have been falling gradually since the Eid break, from a peak of 1,203 on 16 May to 1,007 yesterday. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 261,666 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 46 new deaths yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 15,047.

A really big vaccination target: The government aims to vaccinate half of Egypt’s population before the end of the year, Saad told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 3:28). Some 325k people have now been fully inoculated against covid-19, and as many as 2.1 mn people have received their first dose.

All tourism workers in South Sinai and the Red Sea have been fully vaccinated, Health Minister Hala Zayed said during the committee meeting yesterday. The ministry began inoculating tourism workers on 6 April.

Next on the priority list for vaccines: Residents of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh, who will receive their covid shots after the ministry wraps up the inoculation of other workers affiliated to the tourism sector, which is currently underway, Zayed added. She didn’t specify a start date for hte drive.

As many as 7 mn covid vaccines could be in Egypt next month, 3 mn of which will be locally manufactured Sinovac vaccines through state-owned Vacsera, according to Saad. Manufacturing of the jab should have already begun given that the first batch of raw materials used to produce the jab arrived last week in Egypt, though it remains unclear when manufacturing is due to begin.

The remaining vaccines include a new 1.9 mn-jab batch of Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines to be delivered through the Gavi / Covax program during the first week of June, while a 2 mn-dose shipment of China's Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines will also arrive around the same time, Saad said. Johnson & Johnson is also sending Egypt 20 mn doses of its single-shot jab, head of the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement Bahaa El Din Zidan said last week. These doses would be separate from the shots we could be receiving through Covax and from the 4 mn doses that are said to be delivered in 4Q2021, which will likely be received through the African Union.

An unnamed Emirati company will ship to Egypt as many as 20 mn doses of the Sputnik V vaccine before the year is out, Zidan said yesterday. The UAE firm had recently obtained the rights to supply the Russian jab in the MENA region and Egypt contracted with it for the shots. A timeline on when we would get our hands on the vaccines remains unclear, but Bahaa earlier said that they will be delivered in batches over the next several months. The Health Ministry had already signed an agreement with Russia earlier this month to get 10 mn doses of the jab. It is unclear whether the 20 mn doses include or are in addition to the initial 10 mn.

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