Egypt backtracks on controversial coronavirus policy after uproar

Egypt backtracks on coronavirus policy forcing suspected patients to pay for quarantine costs after uproar
2 min read
02 April, 2020
Egypt's government backtracked on a controversial coronavirus measure after it sparked widespread public outcry.
Egypt's government has backtracked on a measure that sparked public outcry [AFP/Getty]
Egypt has backtracked on a coronavirus measure requiring Egyptians to cover their five-star hotel costs while they complete a compulsory two-week self-isolation following widespread public opposition to the move.

Egypt's Minister of State for Information Osama Haykal said President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered for the hotel expenses to be covered by the "Long Live Egypt" fund, The New Arab's Arabic-language service reported.

Haykal said Wednesday evening that the fund will cover the hotel expenses for Egyptians returning from abroad for 14 days - in line with the World Health Organization's advice on coronavirus.

President Sisi's intervention comes amid a broad public outcry against the measure.

Egypt had required citizens returning from abroad earlier this week to be quarantined at the five-star Cairo airport hotel Le Meridien for roughly 2,000 Egyptian pounds ($126) per night, covering the costs from their own pocket.

This move, one of Egypt's latest measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, elicited anger and opposition from Egyptian travellers upon their return home.

A public outcry soon followed, with a Twitter hashtag addressing the scandal topping Egypt's trending charts with over 28,000 tweets.

The hashtag #قصور_السيسي_للحجر, "Sisi's palaces should be used for quarantine", called for President Sisi's palaces to be opened to self-isolating Egyptians. 

Egypt's civil aviation ministry required Egyptians boarding Tuesday repatriation flights from London and Paris to sign a declaration form stating they will self-quarantine at their own expense as a condition of return.

An Egyptian student's Tuesday Facebook Live broadcast showed a crowd of weary and furious Egyptians returning from London stuck in Cairo International Airport, some shouting at staff.

The student said she ended up quarantined at the Meridian in a Facebook post, adding that authorities agreed to cover the costs for returning Egyptians' stay at the hotel after the travellers refused to foot the bill.

A Youtube video posted on Monday purported to show Egyptian travellers returning from Kuwait demonstrating and chanting "I won't go into quarantine" at Cairo's airport after authorities ordered the same hotel quarantine policy.

The passengers coming from Kuwait said they were not notified of the decision in advance.

Airport authorities decided to allow the protesting travellers to enter the country after conducting blood samples to ensure they did not carry COVID-19.

Read more: American's hunger strike death endangers $1.3bn Egypt military aid

Nader Saad, a spokesperson for Egypt's cabinet, criticised the travellers' demonstrations during a television interview, stating: "This is irresponsible behaviour because all citizens are required to abandon selfishness and narrow-mindedness."

Saad said the group coming from Kuwait will be subjected to domestic isolation, with medical teams routinely checking up on them.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected.