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Coronavirus: Egypt to cover quarantine costs of returning nationals after uproar

Hundreds of Egyptians were stranded on arrival in Cairo, after refusing to pay for compulsory 14-day quarantine stay in hotels
A man wearing a face mask holds flowers as he waits for his family at Cairo International Airport on 19 March (Reuters)

Egypt’s government has agreed to cover the accommodation costs of nationals required to stay for 14 days in a hotel in the capital Cairo upon their return from abroad, in measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus

The costs will be paid from the Tahya Misr (Long Live Egypt) national fund, which is mainly based on donations from the public. 

Hundreds of Egyptians returning from London and Kuwait on Tuesday expressed outrage on Twitter and Facebook, after being asked to cover mandatory hotel accommodation at a five-star hotel for a fortnight. 

Around 300 Egyptians returning from Kuwait have reportedly refused the compulsory quarantine, and agreed only to sign a paper vowing they would abide by a 14-day quarantine at home. 

One passenger arriving from London told Middle East Eye that she was intially asked to pay around 14,000 Egyptian pounds ($888) for 14 nights at Le Meridien Cairo Airport hotel, but that after the social media outcry this request had been reversed. 

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Despite earlier videos criticising the mandatory quarantine and low-quality food provided by hotels, the quarantined nationals arriving on Tuesday from London later posted a video on social media thanking the government for responding to their calls. 

However, the minister of information, Osama Heikal, clarified that the government’s decision to cover the expenses applied only to those who arrived this week, “because they had not been aware of the costs of arrival quarantine”.

Translation: "Those are the [passengers] who arrived in a flight from London. Egypt does not allow them to go home, and wants them to enter a compulsory quarantine at an airport hotel, and to pay EGP 14,000 ($888). Their flight arrived at 9pm. This is a picture after their blood tests have been conducted."

Egypt has so far reported 779 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 52 deaths and 179 recoveries. 

Authorities expelled a correspondent of the UK-based Guardian newspaper for citing scientific research estimating a much higher tally than official figures. 

The state has been accused of a lack of transparency regarding the coronavirus outbreak since the first case was reported in mid-February.

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