Egypt extended a nationwide nighttime curfew until the end of the holy month of Ramadan to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said on Thursday.
In the heart of Egypt’s capital, shoppers packed sweet shops and grocery stores on Wednesday to stock up for fast-breaking during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, shrugging off fears about the new coronavirus.
Little over a month since Egypt imposed strict measures to counter the virus, social customs and economic pressures are drawing people onto the streets, even as newly reported cases of the coronavirus have continued to rise.
The government is running campaigns in newspapers and on billboards to encourage social distancing. It has shut cafes and eat-in service at restaurants and imposed a night-time curfew.
But the curfew has prompted a shopping rush during the day when many stock up for fast-breaking, or iftar, at 6.30pm.
Store owners often struggle to persuade people to queue in an orderly way.
“Customers are not afraid of the coronavirus. It was very crowded (in the shop) at the start of Ramadan, so we were always asking people to stand further apart,” said Osama Ali Ahmed, 60, owner of a sweet shop near the historic al-Sayeda Zainab mosque in central Cairo.
Customers, some wearing masks, jostled for space, as they did at a nearby grocery store.
“People are careful, but this does not stop... us from going out to buy the things that we get every year,” said Ashraf Ali, 52, driver at a telecoms company as he bought pickles.
Egypt, a country of 100 million, has so far reported more than 7,000 cases of the new coronavirus and 452 deaths, fewer than in many European countries, though the number of new infections continues to rise.