Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has announced another three-month extension of a nationwide state of emergency, which has been in place since April 2017.
Sunday’s decision, published in the Official Gazette, said it comes in view of the “serious security and health conditions” the country is going through.
Egypt’s health ministry said on Friday it sent reinforcements and equipment to the governorate of Sohag after medical staff complained of a shortage of resources to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases.
The reported rise of cases in the governorate, nearly 400km (250 miles) south of the capital Cairo, has raised concern about a third wave of COVID-19 infections in Egypt, where most restrictions on movement and other precautions were lifted after a first wave last summer.
Deployments to Sohag include teams to conduct home visits and supplies of oxygen and ventilators, while hospitals have expanded admission capacities, a ministry statement said.
The statement followed complaints on social media alleging dire shortcomings in public health services and access to treatment amid a rapid rise in COVID-19 infections in the area, including critical cases and deaths. The ministry denied the claims.
Egypt had recorded about 220,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 13,000 deaths. Infections have risen in recent weeks around the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Experts say official numbers reflect only a fraction of the actual cases because the level of testing in Egypt has been relatively low and private tests are not included in government statistics.
State of emergency
It was the sixteenth extension of the state of emergency since it came into effect on April 10, 2017, a day after attacks on two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday that killed at least 44 people.
The armed group ISIL (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks, which also wounded more than 100 people and occurred a week before Coptic Easter, with Pope Francis scheduled to visit Egypt later that month.
The assault was the latest on a religious minority increasingly targeted by the group and was considered a challenge to el-Sisi who had pledged to protect Egypt’s Christian minority.
Egypt’s state of emergency has allowed the authorities to make arrests and search people’s homes without warrants.