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How Egypt Tackled COVID-19

There was never much chance of social distancing in Cairo, a city more populous than most countries. Buses fill to overflowing, passengers dangling out of open doors. Millions live in informal settlements with streets barely wide enough for a sedan. And indeed, unlike many other Arab countries, Egypt did not try to impose a strict lockdown. There is a night-time curfew; busy spaces like restaurants and cafés are shut. But public transport is running, factories are humming and shops keep at least limited opening hours. So far, Egypt has dodged a devastating outbreak. Confirmed cases—about 14,000 on May 21st, in a country of 100m—are an unreliable measure. Data suggest the government is testing only about 30,000 people a week (it does not release exact figures). Some Egyptians who test positive are told that relatives living in the same house cannot be swabbed unless they show symptoms. But the death toll, a more reliable measure, is less than seven per 1m citizens, below some wealthy Gulf States, to say nothing of hard-hit countries such as Britain (over 500 per 1m citizens).