CAIRO: Egypt is to cancel all large events and gatherings in a bid to check the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The Egyptian government’s decision has sparked controversy in the country where 60 cases of the COVID-19 infection have been recorded, so far resulting in one death.
Concerts, parties, celebrations, birthdays, exhibitions and festivals will all be suspended until further notice, officials announced, but no moves have yet been made to close schools and universities
Scriptwriter Sayed Fouad, president of the Luxor African Film Festival, was among the first to implement the government’s decision.
The cinema event’s board agreed to call off mass performances while continuing professional activities including film screenings for arbitration committees, critics and journalists in halls away from large audiences.
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In a statement, Fouad said public screenings had been cancelled at the Culture Palace, Conference Hall and Egyptian Public Library in Karnak, near Luxor in Upper Egypt, adding that festival judges would watch movies in two hotels, with the results being announced later.
Elsewhere, the Cairo governorate, headed by Khaled Abdel-Aal, postponed an employment forum scheduled to take place from March 12-14, and head of the Supreme Council of Sufi Orders, Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi, announced the suspension of religious ceremonies in a bid to protect public health.
Celebrations to mark the birth of Sayeda Zainab, granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad, were supposed to take place this week but were called off by the council due to concerns over the virus outbreak.
Mohamed Fawzi, a spokesman for the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said sporting events in Egypt, including football league matches, would go ahead without spectators.
MP Hassan El-Sayed praised the government’s decision which he said would help to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. He also advised the Egyptian Ministry of Education to take any necessary measures it sought fit to combat the spread of COVID-19 in schools and universities.
However, there have been increasing calls from Egyptians for the government to suspend studies at all levels of education.
“All questions about the suspension of studies due to the coronavirus are due to the misuse of social media and the spread of rumors,” Egyptian Minister of Education Tariq Shawky said.
“A decision such as suspending education cannot be issued without an announcement from officials, and a student will not pass to the next academic year without completing the academic content required this year.”
Shawky pointed out that any comparisons between Egypt and other countries that have suspended education due to the virus were unscientific and he pointed out that Egypt had not recorded a single case of the virus among 25 million students in schools or higher education institutions.
Of the 60 reported cases of coronavirus in Egypt, 45 were on a Nile cruise ship in Luxor. One German tourist died.