Egypt’s vital medical workers will benefit from a 75% pay increase that will cost the government EGP 2.25 billion ($143 million). Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi gave the order after meeting with his novel coronavirus advisory team on Sunday, March 29.
El Sisi praised health workers for leading the country’s COVID-19 response and ordered a “risk fund” be established to support them, Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady told Egyptian media on Monday, March 30.
Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahad said there were four more coronavirus deaths on Sunday, March 29, bringing the country’s death toll to 40. There are now 609 confirmed cases in Egypt, while another 132 patients have fully recovered.
Egypt has tried to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus by suspending flights in and out of the country, enforcing a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, closing down non-essential businesses, shutting down government services excluding the health sector, and shuttering all education facilities.
Health professionals working in isolation facilities, fever and pulmonary hospitals, and the country’s COVID-19 testing laboratories will also be rewarded with “exceptional bonuses” for their work to bring the dangerous virus under control, Rady said.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly had previously exalted health professionals for their efforts in the “war” against COVID-19, and said, “(I) advise citizens to be understanding in how they treat them.”
Egyptian authorities have also decided to temporarily limit bank transactions in order to control inflation and limit stockpiling, due to concerns that banking facilities could be coronavirus transmission hotspots.
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announced daily cash deposits and withdrawals would be limited to EGP 10,000 ($635) per person and EGP 50,000 ($3,170) for companies, on Sunday, March 29.
Egypt, like many other north African countries, has a largely cash-based economy.
Cash machines are already subject to regular sterilization, but the bank has moved to limit ATM withdrawals to EGP 5,000 in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, it said in a statement published on the Egyptian government’s State Information Service website.
Following CBE Governor Tarek Amer’s admission on Egyptian television that EGP 30 billion ($1.9 billion) had been withdrawn in the last three weeks, some analysts are concluding the measures are, in fact, aimed at limiting hoarding and inflation.
“We found that individuals are withdrawing money from the banks although they did not need it. We want some discipline. We live in a society and we have to think of others,” Amer explained on a late night talk show on March 29.
One anonymous analyst who spoke to Reuters about the limits said it’s “not official, but I heard [it was designed] to control hoarding and inflation.” Another added, “this could reduce hoarding and panic buying and contain prices.”
The CBE is also encouraging Egyptians to use online banking and payment methods to decrease the number of banknotes in circulation “as a precautionary measure against coronavirus.”
The threat of COVID-19 has forced the prime minister and Social Solidarity Minister Nevin El Qabbag to reconsider how to structure vital pension payments.
Qabbaj said payments will be staggered across the first week of April in order to prevent the elderly and vulnerable from crowding at ATMs and post offices to withdraw their government money. The CBA agreed to waive withdrawal fees for pensioners over the next six months in a further attempt to encourage them to space out withdrawals.
It remains to be seen what effect the new limits, fee waivers, and spacing out of payments will have on Egypt’s economy and the propagation of the novel coronavirus.