Information last updated: May 11, 2020
- Since March 25 (and renew in April 23), the Egyptian government has put in place a quasi-confinement policy, which entails curfew from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am, general lockdown for cafes, night clubs and other entertainment facilities , shops are open during the day but are required to close, except for malls or pharmacy, at 5:00 pm. Public scholars and universities are closed; all non-health governmental services are suspended; closure of cultural and religious sites.
Response set up and capacity
The management of the Covid-19 crisis is mainly led by the President and the Prime Minister in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Population. Other governmental actors are involved like the Ministries of Planning, of Social Solidarity, of Finance and Education. Even the army has been enlisted to clean parts of Cairo and to enforce pandemic rules.
The Egyptian Cabinet has constituted a committee, which reports to the President and the Prime Minister. They put in place an informative campaign on a website in which key information is added. Moreover, they insure to protect the national economy by implementing macro-fiscal and social policies. The latter is done in cooperation with the different ministries mentioned above.
Regarding the role of the Ministry of Health and Population, there are two main goals: to deal with a weak public medical system and to educate population awareness towards the pandemic.
In comparison to the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) countries, the Egyptian public health system can be considered as weak. Indeed, according to the WHO, Government Health Spending represented only 1.7% of GDP in 2017. Moreover, the increasing number of private hospitals and doctors makes accessibility harder for poor and rural populations.
The Public Health system in Egypt was characterized, in 2014, by 0.8 physicians per 1,000 inhabitants and 4.7 hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants (World Bank, 2014).
Entities / Organizations
• Egyptian Cabinet (President and • Prime Minister)
• Ministry of Health and Population
• Ministry of Planning
• Ministry of Social Solidarity
• Ministry of Finance
• Ministry of Education
• National Army
• WorldBank (through different projects to bring help to the government)
Mitigating factors - What is being done?
- March 17: Public Health emergency declared.
- March 22: The President announces a series of economic measures to combat the pandemic including the preparation of quarantine areas and mobilization at unoccupied hostels and universities, an allocation of a hundred billion of EGP (USD 6.3 billion) to the Ministry of Health, and the creation of policies affecting companies like reduction of gas and electricity prices or the suspension of land taxes.
- March 24: The President and the Prime Minister announce a set of measures regarding quarantine, border closures and financial help, including a curfew covering the entire country from 7:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m, during which no public or private transportation services operate. Punishment of USD253 for violators has been established. All nonessential stores are closed between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. during weekdays and remain closed 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays (the Egyptian weekend). This measure does not apply to essential stores, such as supermarkets, grocery shops, and pharmacies. In addition to this, the closure of religious and cultural sites (both for Muslim and Coptic populations), schools/universities and non-health public services are announced. Commercial flights are also suspended and 17 laboratories to test cases and capacity to conduct 200,000 tests in partnership with the WHO are established.
- April 1: The Ministry of Health establishes two hotlines to bring psychological support for people staying at home during the curfew.
- April 8: Extension of the curfew by the President.
- April 16: Healthcare workers represent 13% of all Covid-19 infected cases in Egypt.
- April 22-23: 17 new powers allowed to the President to contain the Covid-19 and law allowing Health Minister to make wearing face masks obligatory .
- April 23: Because of Ramadan, the curfew is reduced to 9:00 pm to 6:00 am, shops allowed to be open during the weekend and restaurants to deliver food.
- April 28: The President extended the state of emergency for three months to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
- May 4: Implementation of a USD 469 million World Bank project aiming at strengthening the prevention, detection and response to the Coronavirus.
Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles
- Though the trend of propagation seems to increase day after day, the number of recovery rates is high, and the number of deaths is relatively low.
- The following month will be crucial in Egypt given that it is Ramadan. Cultural practices around this religious holiday have the threat to exacerbate infection; people are used to being together, and the government has even reduced the duration of the curfew duration because of Ramadan. Moreover, shops and streets tend to get crowded during this time, which makes social distancing difficult. To face these issues, the Government has implemented different measures including asking imams to call believers to pray at home.
- In Egypt the public health system is weak. Due to a low number of doctors and nurses, the healthcare personnel have to work long hours and face large risks, risks who have been denounced by the medical syndicate. Additionally, personnel are not always well trained, which leads to a poor quality of care. The President announced a 75% increase in incentives to mobilize healthcare personnel to continue working.
- The importance of the informal sector (52.9% of employment) and the fact that over 32.5% of people live below the poverty line increase the vulnerability to shocks. These people are not always considered on reports and do not receive help from the government or other actors. They also largely depend on an informal support system that would be no more reliable because of the pandemic. Fourth, the extent of NCDs, HIV-infected, pregnant women and people living in urban slums could cause serious issues for the containment of the Covid-19 and the effectiveness of social distancing. Fifth, the possible move of populations from Gaza and Libya. To protect more vulnerable populations, the Government decided to extend its Tarakaful and Karama (cash transfer programs) for women in rural areas and to include women over 65 years within the social security scheme. As we have seen above, other subsidies have been put in place to help companies regarding gas and electricity for example. The Ministry of Workforce also allocated EGP 500 million (USD 32) for workers that have lost their jobs because of Covid-19.
- More generally, the economy will be affected through the sudden stop of tourism since borders are closed, which represents 12% of the GDP, representing a loss of 1 billion USD and concerning 1.4 million people. Remittances, mostly coming from Gulf countries, are also dramatically affected. A decrease by 2.3 billion USD is expected during April-June.
Potential actions and demands
- Demand for more civil rights in prisons have started to emerge. The prohibition for prisoners to receive personal hygiene products, disinfectants and medicine from their family increases the risk of contamination between them and police officers or/and administration members. Moreover, there are national and international demands to release vulnerable and incarcerated populations.
- Strengthen the protection of healthcare personnel. The medicine syndicate denounces the poor conditions of work: lack of equipment, no test for the personnel and laxism from authorities. Training hospital directors could constitute a solution to improve work conditions. According to the WHO report, the problem is more the fact that the staff were not trained to use personal protective equipment than its shortages by itself.
- “COVID-19 IN THE MEDITERRANEAN AND AFRICA: DIAGNOSIS, POLICY RESPONSES, PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT AND WAY FORWARD” April 2020: https://emnes.org/publication/covid-19-in-the-mediterranean-and-africa-diagnosis-policy-responses-preliminary-assessment-and-way-forward/
- World Bank. “Egypt COVID-19 Emergency Response”: https://projects.worldbank.org/en/projects-operations/document-detail
- Ahram Online: http://english.ahram.org.eg/AllPortal/1/Egypt/20.aspx
Contributor(s): Titouan de Blazy.