March 14, 2020 / 3:24 PM / in 24 days

Egypt shuts schools, universities for two weeks as virus cases increase

A woman carrying her daughter, wears a protective mask following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Toktok station in Shubra Al-Khaima, on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Rania Gomaa/Files

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt said it will close schools and universities for two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the number of cases rises, reaching 110 on Saturday with two deaths.

The suspension of classes from Sunday follows previously announced measures including the cancellation of large public gatherings, restrictions on the time allocated for mass prayers and the halting of local football league matches for two weeks.

“Because we found that the numbers have started rising as of late, we decided to take such precautionary measures from this point in time (to prevent) the rapid spread that happened in other countries that delayed these kinds of decisions,” Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly told a news conference as he announced the temporary closure of schools and universities.

Egypt has also taken measures aimed at reassuring tourists that it is safe to visit the country after passengers contracted the coronavirus on a Nile river cruise ship.

Hundreds of tourists and tourism workers have been tested for the virus, and hotel facilities and cruise ships in Luxor and Aswan have been sanitised.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also called for a 100 billion Egyptian pound ($6.38 billion) fund to finance a “comprehensive” state plan for tackling the outbreak, a statement by the presidency said, without giving details about the source of the funding.

Egypt’s health ministry said late on Saturday that the country had registered 17 new cases of the virus, bringing the total to 110.

($1 = 15.6700 Egyptian pounds)

Reporting by Hesham Abdul Khalek, Moamen Saeed Attallah and Mohamed Waly; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Catherine Evans, Ulf Laessing and Helen Popper

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