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Egypt’s new capital halts construction as 20 workers test positive for COVID-19

March 19, 2020 at 1:16 pm

A construction worker can seen at a building site, 16 September 2013 [Ashraf Amra/ApaImages]

Construction of Egypt’s new administrative capital has been suspended after 20 construction workers tested positive for coronavirus.

The discovery of infected cases has caused panic among engineers and other workers involved in the $58 billion project, reports Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Based in the middle of the desert, 45 kilometres east of Cairo, the new city was designed to replace overcrowded Cairo, home to more than 20 million people, but had already suffered setbacks.

Last year the government struggled to raise the necessary funds after several investors pulled out. Finding enough skilled workers to realise the project also proved to be problematic.

Announced at the economic conference in 2015, the new city was set to house ministries, government buildings, business districts and residential neighbourhoods but the future of the project is now uncertain.

The workers who tested positive for COVID-19 were transferred to Al-Sharouk General Hospital, which is now included on the list of quarantine hospitals.

READ: Will Egypt be a new centre of the coronavirus?

Egypt has just announced 14 new cases of coronavirus in the country, putting the official figure at 210 with six reported deaths.

On Tuesday a 78-year-old Italian man and a 70-year-old Egyptian died whilst under quarantine in Egypt.

Two Germans and two other Egyptians have also died from COVID-19.

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

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

Critics have estimated the figure of confirmed infections to be far higher, with Canadian specialists combining traveller data, flight data and infection rates to predict that there are over 19,000 cases in Egypt.

The Egyptian government has threatened jail time to anyone spreading false information about the virus and announced two new 24-hour hotlines on Whatsapp for citizens to report coronavirus rumours.

The government recently announced South Sinai would shut down to tourists to add to previous measures designed to stem the spread of the outbreak, including shutting schools and universities.

READ: Egypt shuts Guardian office over ‘offensive’ coronavirus report 

This morning Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly ordered that all restaurants, retail stores, cafes, night clubs, amusement parks, casinos and shopping centres must shut their doors between 7pm to 6am until 31 March.

Pharmacies, bakeries, supermarkets and food delivery services will remain open.