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Coronavirus: Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh closes to tourists 

March 19, 2020 at 11:29 am

Sharm El-Sheikh is an Egyptian resort town between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea on 22 February 2019 [Yessica da silva esteves/Flickr]

Cities in Egypt’s South Sinai Governorate, including popular resort town Sharm El- Sheikh, will be closed to tourists for the next 14 days, reports the state-run Al-Ahram, as the government moves to try to stem the spread of coronavirus.

All tourist workers will be placed in quarantine at hotels and will not be allowed to leave the governorate. Hotels have been asked to sanitise their facilities on a daily basis, as have government offices, mosques and churches.

The move follows a series of measures including suspending air traffic and shutting schools and universities.

WHO: Middle East providing little details on coronavirus cases

The decision to close South Sinai to tourists was announced at the same time the government reported 14 new cases of coronavirus in the country, bringing the official total to 210.

The official death toll remains at six.

Earlier this week disease specialists in Canada accused the Egyptian authorities of massively underreporting the number of coronavirus cases in the country out of fear it is affecting the tourism industry, which generates significant revenue for the country.

Using a mixture of flight data, traveller data and infection rates, the specialists predicted there to be over 19,000 cases in Egypt and highlighted the fact that at least 97 foreign nationals who visited Egypt in mid-February have shown symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19.

Most of these people have spent time on Nile cruises in Luxor, the tourist city thought to be the source of the outbreak in Egypt.

Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El-Anani has said that the lockdown could mean losses of $1 billion, whilst Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said that suspending air traffic will amount to $143 million worth of losses.

READ: Egypt: Grand Mufti warns of ‘false rumours’ about coronavirus 

At the beginning of March, a British tourist returning home from a trip around Egypt reported that people on the tour group he was part of were not tested for coronavirus despite showing symptoms.

He raised serious concerns about the fact that the only people having their temperature taken were Asian tourists, or people of Asian descent.

In a bid to control the narrative, Egypt’s Grand Mufti has warned citizens against spreading “false rumours aimed at betraying the religion and the homeland” and said Egyptians should not “listen except to official sources and not to follow the rumours that aim to spread terror and destabilise national security.”

Authorities have threatened jail time for people spreading false information about the virus.

The halting of air traffic, the closure of borders and a general fear of contracting the virus has hit tourist destinations across the world and people continue to cancel their holidays.

Member of the Chamber of Hotel Establishments Sameh Abdel Moneim has called on the government to launch a multibillion-dollar programme to compensate tourism workers for their losses and help them find other jobs, reports Al-Monitor.

Cornavirus is affecting the world's economy - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Cornavirus is affecting the world’s economy – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]