Egyptians abide by gov’t order to wear masks in public places to curb coronavirus spread

Mohammed Abdel-Latif carefully put on his surgical mask before he left his workplace in the capital Cairo.

The 65-year-old man said he had to wear a mask outdoors after the government made it obligatory in public places since Saturday to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“I used to wear a mask even before the government made this decision,” Abdel-Latif, who works for a clothes company in downtown Cairo, told Xinhua.

The Egyptian government announced earlier in May that wearing masks is compulsory at governmental and private institutions, malls, markets, shops and public transportations.

The cabinet later announced that citizens are obliged to wear masks in public places for two weeks starting from May 30, adding that those who are found without a mask in public will face a fine of up to 4,000 Egyptian pounds (252 U.S. dollars).

Egypt announced its first confirmed COVID-19 infection on Feb. 14 and the first death from the pandemic on March 8, both of whom were foreigners.

Until Sunday night, Egypt’s total confirmed cases have reached 24,985, including 959 deaths and 6,037 recoveries.

The north African country has been implementing a partial nighttime curfew for more than two months, with obligatory closure of malls and stores, restaurants and public transportation during curfew hours.

“It is necessary to the wear face masks now to stop the quick spread of the virus…the government’s decision is vital and I can tell that that people are cooperating and responding to the new procedure,” Abdel-Latif added as he sprayed his hands with alcohol after wearing the mask.

For Mostafa Atwa, an electrical engineer, the new decision is an important step towards fighting the coronavirus. However, he believes this move should have been done earlier.

“The company I work for has been providing me with face masks on a daily basis since the crisis started in February,” the young man told Xinhua as he waited for a train in Cairo’s main train station.

Atwa noted that it is important that everyone wears a mask because he did not feel safe before the government’s decision was implemented.

He added that obtaining face masks from pharmacies was not easy weeks ago as masks were scarce in the market.

“But masks of different types and prices are available almost at all pharmacies now,” he said. “The prices start from 2 pounds and may go up to 150 Egyptian pounds.”

Atwa stressed that the government has been doing a great work to control the prices of medical preventives supplies that have been largely used since the outbreak of the virus such as masks, alcohol, gloves and sanitizers.

In March, Egypt halted exporting face masks and all types of alcohol and alcoholic disinfectants to meet the needs of Egyptian citizens amid the spread of the virus.

As Egypt’s factories of disposable medical products have more than doubled their production of medical masks recently.

A Chinese-Egyptian joint venture has been established in April in Egypt, which can produce up to 750,000 medical face masks per day.

The venture, formed by Egypt’s Euromed for Medical Industries and China’s Ningbo A Plus Import and Export Co., Ltd, targets a daily production capacity of 1.5 million high quality surgical face masks soon.

The Egypt-China venture is expected to more than double Egypt’s production capacity of disposable face masks.