Egypt will impose a two-week, nightly curfew in the Arab world's most-populous country in an effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, its prime minister announced Tuesday as the International Monetary Fund warned a lack of supplies could affect the Mideast's poorest nations.
There are over 31,000 confirmed cases of the virus across the Mideast, the vast majority in the hard-hit nation of Iran.
While most recover from the virus and the COVID-19 illness that it causes, bottoming crude oil prices have put additional strain on even the wealthiest countries of the region. That in turn could affect their ability to spend on needed supplies as the virus challenges medical systems worldwide.
Already, countries have reacted by either urging or ordering hundreds of millions of people to stay home. Egypt, home to over 100 million alone, became the latest on Tuesday.
Egyptian Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly told a news conference that the 11-hour curfew, from 7 pm until 6 am would go into effect Wednesday across the country. He said many kinds of transportation will be halted during the curfew. Egypt has 366 confirmed cases and 21 fatalities, including two senior military officers.
The IMF, which traditionally has urged governments to implement greater austerity measures, now urges Mideast governments to offer temporary tax relief and cash transfers.
It warned a lack of medical supplies could hurt Iraq, Sudan and Yemen if it leads to a surge in prices. Given the large numbers of people employed in the service sector, there will be wide reverberations if unemployment rises and wages and remittances fall, the IMF's director for the Middle East, Jihad Azour, said in statement.
In Egypt, tourist cancellations have reached 80%, while retail and hospitality sectors have also been hard-hit in countries like the United Arab Emirates where tourism is a pillar of the economy, according to the IMF.
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