CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptians are celebrating the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in more normal conditions despite concerns about a rise in coronavirus cases and a possible third wave of infections.
Last year, cafes and restaurants were only open for take-away, mosques were shut and a night-time curfew was in place. This year, restaurants are operating again and mosques are open for prayers, though physical distancing and hygiene rules are meant to be observed.
Ahead of the beginning of Ramadan on Tuesday, residents packed streets and markets in the capital Cairo, shopping for colourful Ramadan lanterns and sweets, many not wearing masks.
“There is a stark difference between this year and last year,” said one shopper, Amira Karim. “This year, I can feel Ramadan.”
Egypt has so far recorded 211,307 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 12,487 deaths.
COVID-19 infections confirmed by the government have increased in recent weeks, rising above 800 confirmed daily cases ahead of Ramadan. Officials have urged people to take precautions to guard against a possible third wave of infections.
Experts say official numbers likely only reflect a small fraction of COVID-19 cases in Egypt due to relatively limited testing and the non-inclusion of private test results.
The government is rolling out a vaccination campaign but has so far received limited supplies of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX facility.
Reporting by Sherif Fahmy; Writing by Nadeen Ebrahim; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Steve Orlofsky
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