Egypt loosening some lockdown restrictions for Ramadan; coronavirus toll rises

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will ease its coronavirus lockdown for the holy fasting month of Ramadan by allowing more businesses to reopen and shortening a night-time curfew, the prime minister said on Thursday, as new coronavirus cases reached the highest daily toll since the first infection was confirmed in February.

Starting on Friday, the curfew will start at 9 p.m. instead of the previous 8 p.m. and run until 6 a.m., Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly told a televised news conference.

The holiest month in the Islamic calendar, which starts on Friday, is one of family and togetherness – community, reflection, charity and prayer.

Egypt on Thursday reported 232 new cases of the respiratory disease, including 11 deaths, bringing the country’s total to 3,891 infections and 287 deaths.

Shopping malls and businesses will be allowed to open on weekends, but will still be required to close at 5 p.m.

Last month, Egypt stepped up measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus - closing airports and gyms, as well as suspending classes at schools and universities. Shops other than supermarkets and pharmacies were required to close at 5 p.m. on weekdays, as well as on weekends.

But mosques will remain closed and any public religious gatherings will still be banned.

Madbouly said some restrictions were being eased but that authorities were ready to reimpose curbs if infections began to exceed predictions.

The government will review the measures in two weeks to decide whether to keep them in place, he said.

Reporting by Nadine Awadalla, Amina Ismail, Momen Saeed Atallah and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Alison Williams, Nick Macfie and Peter Cooney