Egyptian government tells citizens: COVID-19 is your responsibility now

Many Egyptians have stopped following data released about the health crisis each evening by the health ministry.
Friday 26/06/2020
Egyptian family rides motorcycle next to a wall with pharaonic images painted on it, in Cairo, Egypt. (REUTERS)
Egyptian family rides motorcycle next to a wall with pharaonic images painted on it, in Cairo, Egypt. (REUTERS)

CAIRO – Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly issued a detailed plan for the country to lift lockdown measures. He called on residents to take the necessary health precautions going forward and assured that the government would provide treatment when needed.

Some said the government is taking a big risk by removing lockdown restrictions, while others felt it is a necessary move to preserve the economy.

The government’s decision came amid controversial accusations by Madbouly that the medical community had not done enough to help bring down the infection rate. Egypt’s Physicians Syndicate issued a statement rejecting Madbouly’s accusations and asked him to apologise, noting that his remarks could create tension between citizens and doctors at a critical time.

The government attempted to formulate a set of rules for shops, cafes and restaurants to operate at night. These establishments are required to close at 10PM, but some Egyptians are sceptical that business owners will comply.

The government has also decided to open cinemas, theaters, and clubs, but refrained from reopening public parks and beaches. Places of worship will be allowed to reopen for daily prayers from Sunday to Thursday, but will remain closed on Friday and Saturday. The government has also issued a statement announcing the return of sporting activities, and the domestic football league, drawing intense controversy.

Ahmed Hassan, a retiree, was shocked that the government is planning “to reopen all the doors” while the crisis is far from over. He noted that the data does not show a decrease in infections or mortality rate, adding that the “hospitals’ condition is not so good.”

Hassan asked: “Do you want to get rid of a percentage of citizens by this epidemic?”

Many Egyptians have stopped following data released about the health crisis each evening by the health ministry. Both the public and health authorities seem less engaged than at the beginning of the crisis.

It remains unclear whether despair or frustration is the source of this mood shift, or whether the situation is simply beginning to normalise. Is the government simply attempting to save what it can of the economy to avoid further deterioration?

People walk in downtown Cairo. (AFP)
People walk in downtown Cairo. (AFP)

The government stated that restaurants, cafes, sports clubs and movie theatres will be allowed to open at 25% capacity. This provoked a satirical campaign on social media, where people wondered how the 25% are to be determined.

Observers say the government’s move is needed because many citizens still fail to respect social distancing measures. They also noted that many countries are gradually opening their businesses again and are learning to live during the crisis.

Inshad Ezzedin, a professor of sociology at Menoufia University (North Cairo), says the government’s move means that citizens will need to shoulder greater responsibility to remain safe. The government saw the economic crisis as preempting deeper security and social problems. And with many rebelling against government restrictions, authorities decided to back off and toss the ball to citizens.

She added that the decision “reflects that the state’s custody of the epidemic has mostly ended, as it no longer can continue the fight on its own. But the real danger lies in transferring the full burden on the shoulders of citizens who are not all educated about the matter, due to the high level of educational and cultural illiteracy in the country.”