Egypt to reopen tourist destinations less hard-hit by virus

Egypt says it will reopen select tourist destinations for international charter flights, starting July 1

The government hopes to draw tourists to popular yet remote attractions that have been spared the ravages of the virus. Those include the southern part of the Sinai Peninsula, home to the major resort and beach destination of Sharm el Sheikh, the Red Sea resort areas of Hurghada and Marsa Alam, as well as Marsa Matrouh, on the Mediterranean coast.

However, the Cairo airport will remain closed to international commercial flights until further notice. Public parks and beaches will also stay closed until the end of June, said Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad.

Despite rapidly increasing infections, Egypt will also shorten its curfew hours slightly, enforcing it from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., starting Sunday and until the end of the month. Hotels that implement social distancing rules and other precautionary measures began to reopen to domestic tourists last month.

Egypt’s economy depends heavily on tourism, which accounts for some 12% of the gross domestic product. The government fears a prolonged lockdown could be devastating economically, as the grounded international flights and empty hotels have taken a heavy toll.

Egypt has secured a $2.8 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund, and last week reached an agreement with the IMF on another $5.2 billion loan to stave off the pandemic’s worst economic effects.