While the world is facing an economic challenge due to the effects of coronavirus, the Egyptian regime is still confused between containing coronavirus using harsh measures, or facing the economic impacts that may emerge as a result of the necessary measures.

The Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation has published a full report of the national efforts and plans to face the novel coronavirus and curb its spread, as Egypt has reported a total of 2,844 cases. As the potential risks of coronavirus continue to rise, the ministry said 27 laboratories across the country have the capacity to test, noting that an additional four laboratories and also university laboratories will be added.

The country has been working on scaling up an Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) programme with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prevent transmission and ensure patients and health workers are protected, the report said. Among the efforts is expanding capacity to conduct up to 200,000 tests within two weeks, recurring 15-day sterilisation campaigns to be carried out in cities and villages to slow the virus spread, increasing intensive care capacity, providing ventilators and building stock of other critical medical supplies such as personal protective equipment.

The ministry said that eight isolation hospitals with a capacity of 2,000 beds have been set up, including 1,000 intensive care beds. Field hospitals have been set up for mild and asthenopia cases, the report added. According to official announced figures, there are 2,855 people infected with coronavirus, including 205 deaths, and 646 recovered. During past days, infections jumped to more than 150 infections every day, which has raised alarm that the number of patients will be far higher than the beds available. In a country like Egypt, with a population of more than 100 million, the number of beds available are very few.

Local economy

It could be interpreted that Egypt was following the point of view of US President Donald Trump who is also protecting his economy. The Egyptian economy has been greatly impacted by the virus, for example remittances from abroad particularly from Gulf countries could be affected by the drop in oil prices and employee dismissals by affected companies. Remittances ($26.8 billion) make up 10 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Tourism is not in a better position. Inbound tourism reservations have dropped by 80 per cent in comparison with the same period last year. Tourism ($13 billion) forms five per cent of the GDP. Also, the decline in global trade and transportation could have a negative effect on the Suez Canal’s revenues that reach $5.9 billion.

The Egyptian government has been forced to take hard measures. The Egyptian Minister of Supply, Ali al-Moselhi, announced the deletion of 10 million citizens from bread subsidy cards, noting that they were costing the government EGP 5 billion (approximately $320 million). Al-Moselhi justified this by saying a large number of errors were discovered on the ration cards, which included duplicate names and wrong numbers on the national ID cards of some citizens, prompting the ministry to remove them from the lists of those eligible for support. But he could not explain 10 million wrong names. Al-Moselhi’s decision raised fears that the mass removal of Egyptians from subsidized bread and commodity cards may increase the suffering of Egyptian families facing unprecedented, high prices of commodities, in addition to the economic difficulties imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus has stopped many national projects that the Egyptian regime relies heavily on. The Egyptian regime hopes that if Trump reopens the US and the economy, as well as a number of major countries, it will restore the global economy, and thus stop (or reduce) the bleeding of losses.