June 19, 2020 / 2:23 AM / a month ago

Egypt surpasses 50,000 confirmed coronavirus cases

FILE PHOTO: A member of medical team wearing a protective face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), sprays a car in front of at the Ain Shams field hospital in Cairo, Egypt June 16, 2020. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt said it registered 1,218 new cases of the new coronavirus on Thursday, edging the total number of cases up to more than 50,000 a fortnight before it is set to further ease restrictions.

The Arab world’s most populous nation closed itself off in March to curb the spread of the disease, shutting schools, restaurants and halting almost all international flights.

The pandemic shuttered Egypt’s vital tourism industry, which the government says accounts for 5% of economic output, but analysts say it may account for as much as 15% if jobs and investment indirectly related to the industry are included.

The country hopes to be able to welcome tourists back for the summer season and has said it plans to reopen its airports to scheduled international flights from July 1.

The health ministry on Thursday said it registered a total of 50,437 cases of the coronavirus and 1,938 deaths. The country’s higher education minister cited a study on June 1 estimating that the actual number of cases could be up to five times higher than the figure reported.

Health officials at the beginning of the pandemic had urged citizens to report even mildly symptomatic cases, which would then be taken to designated isolation hospitals across the country.

As the infections continued to steadily rise, however, the health ministry began offering prescriptions that can be delivered to sick individuals’ homes.

Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Aurora Ellis

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