Copy of 2020-03-09T232505Z_1478264210_RC2NGF968417_RTRMADP_3_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-LUXOR-1583825524588
Tourists take a selfie picture with a mobile phone during their visit to Karnak Temple, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, in Luxor. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: The Egyptian government has banned mass gatherings nationwide as a precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus in the populous country where 59 cases of the virus have been confirmed.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli decreed suspension of all activities that involve large gatherings or those including movements among Egypt’s provinces until further notice, state media reported.

The step includes a temporary ban on the traditional festivals held to celebrate birthdays of Muslim and Christian saints across the country of 100 million people, a cabinet spokesman said.

In response to the decree, the Culture Ministry announced the halting of all large-scale artistic and cultural events.

The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, said visits to prisons nationwide will be stopped for 10 days, beginning on Tuesday, out of concern for public health and inmates’ safety.

However, Education Minister Tarek Shawki has rebuffed requests for closing schools, saying that the situation there is “safe and does not warrant fears”.

“There is no decision until now to suspend study. Those who call for this have to realise that no part of the syllabuses will be cut off,” Shawki said in media remarks.

More than 23 million students are registered in various schools in Egypt, according to official figures.