Official estimates have put the number of tourist workers set to suffer from the COVID-19 shutdown as three million, reports Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
Tourism in Egypt is one of the main factors affected by the global shutdown since tourism constitutes around 20 per cent of the country’s GDP and in 2018/19 generated $12.5 billion.
In March Tourist Minister Khaled El-Enany said the country would lose $1 billion a month from tourism revenue due to the measures taken to prevent the virus from spreading.
The government has been criticised for being slow to lock Egypt down as the pandemic swept the world, and critics have pointed to fear of loss of revenue from tourism as one of the main reasons for this.
Up until this mid-March Egypt was allowing people to visit tourist sites and saying it was safe, but there was already a decline as tourists made their own decisions to stay at home and hotel reservations were cancelled amid the global panic.
El-Enany said that although there has been “a decline in tourism globally in Egypt… our rates aren’t as severe as other countries.”
In March the Guardian reported that at least 97 foreign nationals who visited Egypt since mid-February either showed symptoms of coronavirus or tested positive for the disease after returning from the north African country as people started to question whether the government was supressing the real numbers of infected.
There were reports from returning holidaymakers that only Asian tourists were being tested, even if they showed symptoms, as Egypt came under fire for racially profiling East Asians.
The first official case was announced in Egypt in mid-February and by 18 March 45 people who had been on an Aswan-Luxor cruise ship were confirmed to have the virus and six people had died.
This was said to be the turning point in the government’s policy and flights were then suspended on 19 March and cities in the tourist hot spot of South Sinai shut down.
There have been calls on the government to launch a programme to compensate tourist workers amid the its focus on businessmen. Whilst El-Enany has committed to paying these workers’ salaries, the hotel workers coalition say they have seen nothing so far.