Adaptation instead of confrontation: How has the Egyptian regime’s coronavirus plan changed?

The Egyptian government used completely new words in relation to dealing with the coronavirus when it presented a new plan it said was the “general plan for coexistence” rather than “measures to confront the coronavirus.” This raised many questions about whether or not the Egyptian regime has changed its plan to deal with coronavirus, and why.

Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed presented what she called “the general plan for coexistence” in light of the uncertainty over the timeframe for the continuation of the coronavirus crisis, during a government meeting on Wednesday morning.

According to a statement published by the official page of the Council of Ministers, the “coexistence plan” is based on following all necessary precautions precisely and decisively in the various facilities (with almost total reoperation), and a reassessment of the epidemiological situation every 14 days, to act in light of these results.

The minister pointed out that the first stage includes general guidelines that individuals and establishments must adhere to, in addition to mandatory standards that must be met in various sectors, such as institutions and companies, malls and markets, the construction sector and factories, and all means of transportation. The coexistence plan requires the continued closure of places that cause a high risk of transmission of infection, and the replacement of services where direct interaction with the public takes place, to be replaced with electronic services, whenever possible. The minister did not mention any of the places that have a high risk of transmission of infection.

The plan also stipulated an attempt to provide pre-reservation electronically for most services to maintain the rules of social distancing and avoid congestion, as well as encouraging electronic payment. It also includes a commitment to take the temperature of visitors to facilities, and to provide an isolation room to receive any member of any facility showing symptoms of the disease at work, while reducing the number of workers, the availability of hygiene supplies, as well as maintaining as much natural ventilation as possible, and reducing the use of air conditioners whenever possible. The minister presented the rules related to malls, markets, construction facilities and factories.

In a related context, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly recognised the negative repercussions of the coronavirus on the Egyptian national economy, but pointed out that the coronavirus has not only affected the Egyptian economy but also the global economy. He said, during the government meeting Wednesday morning, that this made the government contemplate taking a proactive step quickly to enhance its capabilities to face these repercussions, pointing to the government’s and the central bank’s request for a financial package from the International Monetary Fund.

The government’s speech about the “coexistence plan” with coronavirus comes at a time when businessman Naguib Sawiris announced that he decided his employees will return to work next Sunday whilst taking all precautionary measures, asking a question to everyone who previously criticised him for calling for a return to work: “What will we do if the vaccine or medicine does not appear?”. Sawiris sparked controversy by calling for young people to return to work while keeping the elderly at home, warning of what he described as “economic bloodshed” that could spill into the streets of Egypt because work has stopped.

Like most countries in the world, Egypt has witnessed a great debate between businessmen calling for the return to work with preventive measures, and between those calling for a complete closure until the wave of the spread of the virus passes to protect the health of Egyptians and prevent the collapse of the health system. In the face of questions related to the Egyptian regime changing the plan to deal with the coronavirus, observers said that the Egyptian system did not have a plan to deal with the virus from the beginning.

Observers say that the Egyptian regime does not have a plan to confront the virus, and did not form a committee to manage the crisis, but it has taken separate measures, most of which came in a simulation of measures taken by other countries, and not in the framework of a comprehensive plan. However, after a while, the Egyptian regime discovered that it was not ready for these measures, that it needed to reduce or cancel them, and that its economic losses were huge and the people must return to work. Observers warn that what was proposed by the Egyptian Minister of Health is not considered a comprehensive plan either, but rather some general controls, without specific details and mechanisms, which means merely cancelling and easing procedures, and not implementing an integrated plan.

Egyptians are angry at the way the Egyptian system managed the coronavirus crisis and indicated that the easing of the measures came in conjunction with an increase in infections, although the increase in infections was supposed to mean tougher measures. Opponents say that the Egyptian regime means by the word “coexistence” to cancel the procedures in practice, and that there will be no new procedures according to an integrated plan, and that the system will leave the Egyptians to face their fate.