On Saturday, authorities in Egypt ordered the closure of all mosques and churches and banned communal prayer gatherings for two weeks [File: Amr Abdallah...

On Saturday, authorities in Egypt ordered the closure of all mosques and churches and banned communal prayer gatherings for two weeks [File: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters]

Egypt‘s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said his government is dealing with the novel coronavirus pandemic with “full transparency” and denied allegations that the infection rate is being suppressed.

The country’s health ministry has so far recorded 10 deaths out of 294 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease, but speculation that the real figures are higher has circulated on social media in recent weeks.

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On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on governments across the Middle East to be more forthcoming with information about new virus infections to contain its spread in the region.

“We have dealt with the subject since the beginning and like always with full transparency … all health ministry and government statements reflect the reality we are living in,” said el-Sisi in a televised address.

“Why would we hide anything from you?” he asked, adding that those questioning the official data “want to make people feel insecure”.

“I call on Egyptians to stay at home for two more weeks,” he said.

“Help us get over this stage, or the scale of infections will be higher. I say this because the medical definition of this virus is that it spreads rapidly,” el-Sisi added in his first public comments on the COVID-19 disease.

He said his government has earmarked 100 billion Egyptian pounds ($6.4bn) to fund the plan to confront the coronavirus crisis.

Tough measures

Egyptian authorities have imposed tough measures to limit social interaction in the country of 100 million inhabitants.

They have closed schools and universities, ordered cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, sporting clubs and malls to close by 7pm (17:00 GMT), and told many public sector employees to avoid the workplace.

Egypt on Thursday halted air traffic until the end of March.

On Saturday, the country’s religious authorities ordered the closure of all mosques and churches and banned communal prayer gatherings for at least two weeks.

During his address, el-Sisi announced a number of economic measures, including reducing natural gas and electricity prices to industries, and postponing repayment of loans for small and medium-sized companies.

Other measures included the central bank’s allocation of 20 billion Egyptian pounds ($1.3bn) to support the country’s stock exchange.

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